The Power of Giving

Generous support from scores of individuals, foundations and alumni combines to make a difference and improve educational programs

By Patricia O’Dell

Shanon Black first became interested in the UMKC School of Dentistry while attending Haskell Indian Nations University. She had considered pursuing a medical degree, but once she learned of the impact of dentistry on overall health, she changed direction.

“It just clicked,” Black said. “I started doing more research and became interested in orthodontics, maxillofacial surgery or maybe a periodontal specialty. I make jewelry, so I was sensitive to working with the smallest things. And as I did more research into dental schools, I was drawn to UMKC.”

Today, she is a second-year student, one of many excited about the school’s recently opened Pre-clinical Lab, a project funded by the generosity of donor gifts large and small. During Black’s research on the UMKC dental program, she was drawn in by the school’s culture. That was more important to her than having the newest training facility. Now she has both – and says the new clinical lab makes a significant difference.

“It’s so shiny and clean and white and bright!” Black said. “Before, we actually practiced on a steel rod with teeth attached and had to imagine the head and shoulders. And there wasn’t water.”

The new lab is designed to better simulate a real clinical setting, with students being able to drill with water, and position properly around a patient’s torso.

Dr. Andrew Moore (DDS ’99), president of the Rinehart Foundation, which supports the dental school, reinforces the significance of these improvements. When the Rinehart board called a meeting asking alumni to fund individual work stations, they stepped up without hesitation.

“Every alumni understood what a difference the upgrades would make,” Dr. Moore said. “The lab is such a tangible aspect to every student’s learning. No one understands that better than alumni.”

The School of Dentistry is fortunate to have many supporters who realize their donations can change the lives of students and enhance their learning experience, far beyond the fundraising project at hand. Giving brings alumni closer together and strengthens their ties with the school, while showing their commitment to students’ success. In addition, it models the act of giving back for future graduates, while enabling the school to better compete in recruiting.

It also creates momentum for future improvements such as the school’s newest project, the Study Commons. Designed with feedback from students, this much-needed space will provide areas for students to meet and study, offering them access to technology in quiet rooms and group sitting areas. It will be the only designated study space in the building.

The School of Dentistry recognizes that the act of giving, regardless of the donation’s size or timing, always makes an impact. Each gift received, while greatly appreciated, truly offers value.

The efforts of fellow Rinehart board member Dr. Crystal Walker (DDS ’04, PEDO ’06) reflects this belief. When her class started planning for its 15th reunion, they decided to collectively support the Pre-clinical Lab as part of the celebration. The group understood the project would have a great immediate impact on improving the dental education for current and future students.

“I am grateful for all of the faculty, my fellow students, and the alumni that helped me to reach my dream of having a career in dentistry, and it is important to me to give back in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Walker.

Over the years, community support for the dental school has been significant as well. The Sunderland Foundation, which was established by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of Ash Grove Cement Co. for 33 years, has been a stalwart supporter of UMKC. The foundation recently provided funds to be used toward the renovations of the Pre-clinic Lab, providing the final push needed to complete the project.

“We focus on capital funding because building was at the heart of our business when my family owned Ash Grove Cement,” said Kent Sunderland, president of the Sunderland Foundation. “We understand the value of buildings that work for people. Providing resources for organizations that enhance Kansas City is integral to our family’s foundation mission.”

In many ways, it takes a village of supporters to keep the school moving forward – this includes the financial support of individuals, alumni, foundations and friends. By coming together, they make a difference, improving dental education for years to come.

“We know the combination of community and alumni support will continue to enhance the School of Dentistry and prepare it for the future,” said Dean Marsha A. Pyle, DDS, MEd.

Now, Dean Pyle is working with designers and architects, as well as an internal team of students, faculty and staff, to develop phase two for the Study Commons project. The first phase — which included removing temporary walls and installing new carpet, paint and window shades — has wrapped up.

“Whether it’s the completed Pre-clinical Lab, the recently launched Study Commons or other future projects designed to help us educate and prepare the next generation of dental professionals, we are privileged to have such a strong team of supporters standing with us,” said Dean Pyle. •


May 17
Demolition begins. Lab spaces and a 3rd floor HVAC room gutted. Installation of the new air handler commences and runs through most of June.

More demolition, followed by installation of new duct work, electrical wiring and gas lines.

New lighting and wall finishes installed.

Construction continues with new ceiling grid and ceiling, floor coverings, painting and testing of new air handler.

Delivery of benches and sim units. Installation by crews from Dentsply Sirona manufacturing facilities in Germany with help from Dentsply Sirona USA service techs.

Installation of multimedia presentation system by technicians from EBS, Munich, Germany. Final cleaning.


Final calibration and testing of air handler (HVAC system), final installation and subsequent calibration and testing of sim units and AV multimedia presentation system.

Sept. 4
First teaching labs held in the new spaces.