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WVU alumnus pays tribute with School of Dentistry scholarship

W. Christopher Taylor, DDS, and his wife, Gina, pledged a $30,000 gift to create a namesake scholarship, which will be awarded to a Doctor of Dental Surgery student with financial need as determined by School of Dentistry leadership.

W. Christopher Taylor, DDS, and his wife, Gina, pledged a $30,000 gift to create a namesake scholarship, which will be awarded to a Doctor of Dental Surgery student with financial need as determined by School of Dentistry leadership. 

Future dentists studying at West Virginia University will benefit from a new scholarship established by a retired orthodontist and his wife as a tribute to his alma mater.

W. Christopher Taylor, DDS, and his wife, Gina, pledged a $30,000 gift to create the namesake scholarship, which will be awarded to a Doctor of Dental Surgery student with financial need as determined by School of Dentistry leadership. The funds will be available beginning with the 2021-’22 academic year.

The Taylors’ contribution coincides with “We Are Stronger Together,” a special fundraising initiative that aims to boost scholarship funds for WVU students in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although scholarship discussions began months prior, Taylor said the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and more reminded him it was important to move forward.

“Dentistry has given me a great lifestyle,” Taylor said. “It’s allowed me to do things, like travel, that I wouldn’t have been able to do without a dental degree or an advanced degree of some kind. Education can open many different doors for you. This gives me a way to give back to the school that gave me so much.”

Taylor earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the School of Dentistry in 1978, despite a rough start to his first year of dental school. He blew out his knee playing flag football, which caused him to spend four months in a cast and miss three weeks of school. He fell so far behind that he considered dropping out and reapplying the following year until longtime dean W. Robert Biddington pointed out that the end result would be the same if he pressed on and failed.

“He said, ‘Do you want to quit, or do you want to give it a go?’” Taylor said.

Taylor opted for the latter and caught up by the semester’s end. He is thankful for the strict rules in place at the time to keep students on track and help them succeed.

He didn’t realize what a great reputation WVU had for cultivating clinical skills until someone questioned the procedure he performed for his board examination – a direct inlay, which involves fabricating a solid piece to fit the exact size and shape of a cavity too large for a traditional filling. After he told them he went to WVU, they nodded in acknowledgement that he had the necessary skills to do it.

“That made me feel really proud,” Taylor said. “The School of Dentistry taught me a lot.”

Taylor completed his general practice residency at WVU and practiced privately in Morgantown before specializing in orthodontics at Fairleigh Dickinson University (MS, 1989). He worked in private practice in Charleston, West Virginia, until he retired in 2018.

School of Dentistry Interim Dean Fotinos Panagakos, DMD, PhD, shared his appreciation for the Taylors’ gift.

"Investing to become an oral health professional leaves our students with considerable debt,” Panagakos said. “Comparatively, tuition at the WVU School of Dentistry may be more affordable than many other dental schools in the country, but anything to ease the burden our students assume when they commit to dentistry is welcomed. We encourage giving because it is always an investment in the future. In our case, that means the future of our students and the future of the patients they will care for over a lifetime."

The Taylors previously established the endowed W. Christopher Taylor and Gina Ann Taylor Scholarship to benefit students within the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. Chris Taylor earned his bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary science from the Davis College in 1974.

Both scholarship gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. To make a gift to the School of Dentistry, visit give.wvu.edu/dentistry or contact Karen Coombs at kcoombs@wvuf.org or 304-216-3784.

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