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Longtime professor’s $125K gift boosts WVU School of Dentistry renovation effort

Robert and Rosemary Wanker

Robert and Rosemary Wanker

A $125,000 gift from a beloved West Virginia University School of Dentistry professor and his wife will enhance facilities to improve patient care and oral healthcare education for future dentists and dental hygienists.

The gift from Robert and Rosemary Wanker aids Transforming Oral Health: The Campaign for Facilities, a $15 million fundraising effort to support multiphase facility upgrades at the School of Dentistry. School officials are working to determine the next phase of renovation work in collaboration with WVU Facilities Management and the SmithGroup, an international architectural design company.

Dr. Wanker, affectionately known as “Coach” to most alumni, said the renovations are necessary to help students keep up with the latest techniques and technologies in a field that has evolved dramatically since he joined the School’s faculty 50 years ago.

“The technology has completely changed in those 50 years from what was taught to me in dental school,” Wanker said. “It’s the same with anything in medicine. As a dental school, you need to keep abreast of everything that’s going on, and you’ve got to have the facilities to be able to do it.”

Renovation work completed last year updated the WVU Dental patient reception and waiting area, Urgent Care and Radiology clinics, and offices for faculty and staff. The SmithGroup is conducting a comprehensive review of existing spaces and working to develop a renovation plan that reintegrates the School’s postdoctoral clinics,  Faculty Practice and  Dr. W. Robert Biddington Center for Dental Innovation back into the core Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Stephen Pachuta, dean of the School of Dentistry, is grateful to have generous support from the Wankers to proceed with future work.  

1.	Rosemary and Robert Wanker (from left) are recognized for their $125,000 gift to the WVU School of Dentistry by Dean Stephen Pachuta during the School’s Alumni Weekend festivities.

Rosemary and Robert Wanker (from left) are recognized for their $125,000 gift to the WVU School of Dentistry by Dean Stephen Pachuta during the School’s Alumni Weekend festivities.

“The School of Dentistry is so appreciative of the generous support that Bob and Rosemary have provided during their more than five decades of service,” Pachuta said. “Their steadfast contributions of time, talent and financial support helped to shape the profession of dentistry in West Virginia. Wherever I go, nationally or internationally, someone always comes up and says, ‘Be sure to tell Coach I said hi.’ Bob and Rosemary: Thank you for choosing West Virginia and the WVU School of Dentistry as your home. We love you both!”         

Originally from New York, Wanker earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from WVU, where he and his wife were neighbors as students. After marrying in 1972, the couple settled in Bridgeport, and Dr. Wanker opened a private practice in Clarksburg. He taught part-time before joining WVU’s faculty full-time in 2000. Now technically retired, he continues to work as a clinical professor in the Department of Periodontics until vacancies are filled.

The Wankers previously considered an estate gift, but they realized those dollars would not be immediately available to support the facility upgrades.

“The School needs the money now,” Wanker said. “They don’t need it when Bob or Rosemary passes away. … It’s not like the state is going to say, ‘Here’s an extra $25 million.’ That’s not going to happen. Most of what’s going to be done is going to be done through private donations. Why wait?”

Individuals and businesses interested in supporting the School’s capital campaign should contact Director of Development Karen Coombs at 304-216-3784 or Naming opportunities are available for those who wish to honor a loved one’s legacy or explore other options.

All gifts are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. The Wankers’ gift was made in conjunction with WVU’s fifth Day of Giving. Alumni and friends made over 5,600 gifts totaling $15.5 million March 9 to benefit scholarships, programs and more across the University system.

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