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School of Dentistry receives two major gifts for student scholarships

John Snyder (left), president of the Mette Foundation Board, and Karl Schettenhelm, board vice president, present an $800,000 check to Dr. Renée Duff, assistant dean for student services.

Dr. Chuck and Mrs. Dee Kelly

 

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 17, 2016 -– The School of Dentistry has received two major gifts that will go toward student scholarships – one for DDS students and the other for dental hygiene students.

• The Norman H. Mette Foundation has given an $800,000 gift that will increase to $1 million thanks to matching funds as part of the university’s ongoing Victors for Michigan capital campaign. The Mette gift will be used for scholarships for DDS students.

• Dr. Chuck and Mrs. Dee Kelly of Traverse City, Mich., have given a $50,000 gift that will provide scholarships for students in the Dental Hygiene program. The couple, both of whom are School of Dentistry alums, designated their gift for entry-level students based on merit and financial need.

The Mette Gift

The Mette Foundation is a donor familiar to the dental school community.  The foundation has provided annual scholarships for U-M dental and medical students for the last three decades thanks to the commitment and planning of a Detroit resident, Norman H. Mette, who died in 1987 and left $2.2 million for that purpose.  Since the early 1990s, the School of Dentistry has named 114 Mette Scholars and awarded a total of about $806,500 from the foundation’s investment proceeds.

Early this year, the foundation’s board of directors decided to transfer its remaining assets, $1.6 million, to the university, which will administer the funds and scholarships going forward. The dental and medical schools each received half, or $800,000. The donation qualified for the Michigan Matching Initiative for Student Support, which boosts gifts by 25 percent. It is one of the incentives in the university’s Victors for Michigan capital campaign, which seeks to raise $4 billion by the end of 2018.

“We are grateful for the confidence shown in the School of Dentistry by the Mette Foundation entrusting us with this significant gift,” said Dean Laurie McCauley. “It is important not only because it is a major gift, but because it is designated for student scholarships. Our ability to help defray the growing cost of dental education is vital for us to continue to attract the best and brightest students to the School of Dentistry.”

Norman Mette’s story is remarkable.  He attended U-M briefly during the 1930s but had to drop out because he couldn’t afford the tuition in an era before scholarships existed.  He was a blue-collar laborer in the auto industry who lived in a simple, one-room apartment, dressed plainly and wanted no public attention, according to those who knew him. He devised what turned out to be a very successful long-term strategy for investing in the stock market. Late in his life, Mette approached Karl Schettenhelm, a tax attorney, with his dream of providing financial help to U-M medical and dental students. Schettenhelm set up the foundation that would award scholarships after Mette’s death.

Mette’s desire to help health care students may have stemmed from the medical treatment he received during the nine cancer surgeries he endured in his lifetime, though Schettenhelm doesn’t believe any of Mette’s medical or dental care were performed by U-M doctors or dentists.  Schettenhelm, a U-M alum, said Mette simply had come to believe that the university represented the pinnacle of excellence in everything it did, which led him to pay back the medical community via U-M.  Mette also wanted other potential donors to see the good – what he called “the Michigan miracles” – that can be done by even a common person, Schettenhelm said.  Mette’s contributions to the School of Dentistry now total $1.6 million with the addition of the latest $800,000, though interest on the fund will allow his legacy to continue to grow.

Over the years, the dental school has awarded from one to as many as nine Mette scholarships per year depending on the amount of investment proceeds available. Yearly totals ranged from $10,000 to $53,500. A student’s scholarship was divided evenly over his or her four years at the school.  Mette specified that the foundation should “do more than just send a check” each year, Schettenhelm said, so for the last three decades the medical and dental schools have hosted an annual dinner and program during which the foundation board members could pass along Mette’s philosophy to the scholarship winners.  “Norman Mette believed that in helping others, each Mette Scholar could witness to the importance of caring for our fellow man,” Schettenhelm said. “Norman always said (that doctors and dentists should) look into the eyes of each patient for it is there, even if the patient could not physically say thank you, that you can see the patient’s appreciation for your acts of service and care.”

That message will continue to be passed along to future dental students because of the foundation board’s decision to gift the remainder of its funds to the dental and medical schools. Schettenhelm said he and other board members were nearing retirement, so it made sense to donate the entire remaining fund and allow the university to administer the scholarships from year to year. He said the matching funds from the capital campaign were also an incentive. “Where could you find a 25 percent return on investment to create an endowed program that would continue to honor this message year in and year out?” he said.

The Kelly Gift

The Kellys’ ties to the School of Dentistry date to the late 1940s when they met and married while students. Dee earned her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene in 1951 and Chuck graduated with his DDS in 1953.

Dee Kelly said her idea of helping dental hygiene students arose as she and her husband talked through the details of how their gift would be used. “One of the reasons is that the dentist side of the school is larger and gets more thanks, more gratitude, more everything,” she said. “And I just thought, the hygienists are pretty important to me, too, so if they need scholarship money as much as the dentists, I’d just as soon have the dental hygiene program receive it.  And Chuck agreed.”

The Kellys’ gift contributes to an important need, said Janet Kinney, director of the Dental Hygiene program. Several small awards are presented as dental hygiene students graduate, and DH master’s program students are eligible for university-wide graduate fellowships and grants, but no scholarships currently exist for entering students.  Kinney said students considering or starting the program often ask about scholarships, but existing funds are designated for other, more general purposes. “This is a very significant gift for us in the Dental Hygiene program,” she said. “It is greatly needed and greatly appreciated.”

Kinney said a recent exit survey of graduating Dental Hygiene students showed their average educational debt was about $25,000 with a range of a few thousand up to a high of $97,000. Given that about one-third of the DH graduates will move on to graduate programs and incur even more debt, it shows the need for additional scholarship aid. “The student debt for our graduates isn’t at the same level as for DDS grads, but it is still very significant for the profession,” she said.

Dee Kelly said her choice of helping dental hygiene students has some obvious sentimental elements since she is an alum and met her husband the summer before they were both entering dental school.  But it is more about how impressed she is with how the program has evolved beyond the two-year certificate program or the Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene degree. Today hygienists with associate degrees can join the program for a bachelor’s degree, online courses are available for non-traditional students and the master’s program allows students to further expand their education. “It’s just a much, much better program today,” she said.
 
The Kellys are a four-generation family of dentists with degrees from U-M. Chuck’s father started the tradition, graduating from the School of Dentistry in 1933, then Chuck and a brother followed the same career path.  Two of Chuck and Dee’s sons took over the family practice and are now retired. Two granddaughters are now dentists in the practice, one with her husband. Another granddaughter is a dentist in Chicago. “Dentistry has been good for us, no doubt about it,” Chuck Kelly said.

Jeff Freshcorn, the school’s director of development, said the Kellys are longtime contributors to the school. “This most recent gift from Chuck and Dee is just the latest example of their support to the School of Dentistry for more than 40 years,” he said.

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The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.
 
Contact:
Sharon Grayden, Communications Director, at (734) 615-2600, dentistry.communications@umich.edu, or Lynn Monson, Writer, at (734) 615-1971.