Class of 1981 steps up for Give to the Max Day

Give to the Max 2021

Last year, the class of 1980 decided to do something big for their 40-year reunion. Disappointed that their in-person gathering was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they banded together to create a match pledge and encourage record-setting giving on Give to the Max Day. It worked, too: the school raised $34,500, an 80% increase in funds raised from the previous year.

Ken McDougall, DDS ’81, watched the class above him succeed, and knew he couldn’t stand by idly as his 40-year reunion approached. “Being a bit of a competitive person myself, and caring about dental education, I saw it as a challenge,” he explained. So when Annual Giving and Stewardship Coordinator Nicki Black reached out about a similar pledge for the class of 1981, McDougall was ready to go to work. “I thought, let’s top what they did. Let’s have the class of ’81 set a new record.”

And so his work began: McDougall rallied together members of his graduating class, including Michelle Bergsrud, Robert Bond, Fred Eichmiller, Lowell Einerson, Laura and Robert Eng and Bradley King, who together pledged to match online gifts to the Dental School Scholarships Fund on Give to the Max Day up to $8,000.

While the challenge marks a fun competition and a way to celebrate their 40-year reunion when the class of 1981 could not safely gather, it also has a much deeper meaning for McDougall. He is inspired by the school’s mission to increase scholarship giving and make an impact on the future of our oral health professionals.

“I know the cost of education has always been high,” McDougall explained. “But now, the percentage that falls back on students is higher than it’s ever been. That can limit who is able to attend dental school, and it can be a limiting factor on what they want to do when they graduate.”

McDougall, who served on a variety of national leadership positions with the American Dental Association and is a lifetime member of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, credits his experience at the School for much of his success. “My education was the basis for everything positive that happened in my career, not only in my practice but also in organized dentistry,” he explained.

Now, in his retirement, McDougall is excited to pay that gift forward. “The whole idea of giving back is to try to help somebody,” he explained. “We’ve made money off of this great profession, and not only are we giving it forward to today’s students, but we’re gaining something ourselves as well. It’s a real sense of satisfaction that this is something I can do. This is something that’s going to help.”

The funds raised will indeed help current and prospective students. Donations on Give to the Max Day on November 18 of this year will support the Dental School Scholarships Fund, which provides scholarships to all students.

McDougall hopes that his class’s match pledge and a wealth of support from alumni and community members will remind current and prospective students that “dentistry is the greatest profession in the world.”

“I hope it helps students with the high cost of education, but also shows them that people who graduated 40 years ago still care about future dentists, about dentistry and about taking care of patients,” he reflected. “We’re not just there to financially support them: hopefully we can mentor them in other ways, too.”