U of T Alumni: Defy Gravity Pace Setting Campaign is Building the Future of Good Oral Health

by Selina Esteves

Now that Defy Gravity, the University of Toronto’s new campaign, has been launched, the faculty has put together a Campaign Cabinet of alumni who want to help the school achieve its goals.

This volunteer group is made up of nine individuals who exemplify service to the school and have not only expressed an interest in providing financial support, but also share ideas, offer suggestions and help engage their own friends, colleagues, classmates and contacts with the campaign.

Volunteer opportunities like this give alumni a chance to help shape the future of the school. Membership includes faculty members, alumni from both undergraduate and graduate programs, researchers, specialists, general dentists retired and working from across class years, and those in and outside the GTA.

Elizabeth MacSween 8T0 is the inaugural chair for the campaign and will serve a three-year term. “The school provided us with an education that set us up for enriching careers. I feel great pride in taking on this role and have learned the critical importance donations have on the success of the school. We can fail together or succeed together. It is my hope as chair, working with my fellow Cabinet members, that we can reach alumni and those in the community to really rally behind to school – for our collective success.”

The Cabinet met for the first time in May and will use the summer months to help prepare materials to share with the wider alumni community about the priorities the school seeks to fund through the Defy Gravity Campaign, which will run for the next seven or more years.
There have been great strides made, thanks to the generosity of alumni for improvements at the school. Expanded support for Access to Care, the fund that supports patients with limited or no means to pay for their oral health care, dozens of new student awards and financial aid bursaries have been created, research projects funded and money for upgrades to the equipment and the building are starting to flow. Support has also come in for student outreach programming.

Cabinet member, Bruno Vendittelli DDS 9T4, 9T9 Dip Ortho says, “There is much to do. We need the help of our alumni and our community if we are to remain at the forefront of dental education. What graduate doesn’t want to see that?” Vendittelli, along with his classmates of 9T4, are currently running a class fundraising appeal in memory of two classmates, Dr. Stewart Wilson and Dr. Andrew Simic who have passed away. “We want to do something for the school, but also ensure it is has meaning for us. We thought naming the operatories for our classmates would be a fitting way to do this.”

Assistant professor Susanna Chow 9T2 has some experience with fundraising, having sat on numerous committees from political parties to hospital foundations. “Campaign fundraising provides the essential resources needed to get projects done and helps those who need that extra support. When a community comes together behind a cause, the only limitation is how much your community truly cares about what you are doing. I think we have a caring community and one who wants to see the profession of dentistry excel in this country.”

About Defy Gravity: The Campaign for the University of Toronto

Defy Gravity is the largest alumni engagement and fundraising effort in Canadian history. Harnessing the leadership, generosity, and compassion of U of T’s worldwide community, the Campaign will strengthen the University’s commitment to inclusive excellence and accelerate its work on the biggest challenges facing the world.

How will our Faculty succeed and excel in the future? A hallmark of a truly great school is its ability to rally its community around its mission. We have nearly 150 years of shared history that has laid the foundation of oral health care in Canada.

U of T Dentistry was the first school in the country and has the strongest and largest alumni community. More than 13,000 graduates have excelled at U of T Dentistry and gone on to change lives and contribute to the health of their communities. To maintain and grow our capacity in education, research and patient care, we need your help. The Defy Gravity Campaign for the Faculty of Dentistry will help define our school for the next 150 years. Priorities such as building renewal, research support and student financial aid are among the most urgent to ensure our place as the preeminent dental school in Canada. Universities are the incubators for innovation and change. With the support of those who care about the profession of dentistry, the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto will continue to be a leader in oral health.

Oral Health welcomes this original article.

About the Author

Selina Esteves is the Director of Advancement at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry. In this role, which she has held since 2016, she oversees the alumni relations and fundraising programs. Prior to joining Dentistry, Selina joined U of T from SickKids Foundation in 2012 as an associate director of major gifts within the Division of University Advancement at U of T. Prior to a career in philanthropy, she spent 16 years in the hospitality sector.

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