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One Donor’s Story: “I didn’t get here all by myself and just want to give back…”


Rebecca & David Funderburk on holiday in France with Frankie & John Olmsted.

Dr. and Mrs. David and Rebecca Funderburk of Colorado made their third bequest to the Foundation’s Freedland Society at AAE22. Dr. Funderburk’s long list of volunteer leadership for endodontics includes serving as a Foundation Trustee and AAE Director and on several committees for both organizations. Mrs. Funderburk has been very active in the AAE Alliance, a group of members’ spouses who supported the Foundation with a series of events and contributions. They recently visited with Major Gifts Manager Gary Rejebian to reminisce about their service to endodontics.

What inspires your giving?

DF: I got here on the shoulders of a lot of people, I didn’t get here all by myself. It’s just very important for me to give back. Rebecca’s even more giving than I am. I am very proud of her having been awarded honorary membership in AAE for her work with The Alliance and the Foundation.

RF: I started doing fundraisers with the Boys & Girls Clubs, and then with the women’s shelter and the homeless shelter. We were in Chicago one year, someone got me out of bed one morning and said, “The Alliance is going to do an auction to make money for the Foundation…” I knew nothing about it, but we did that for probably the next eight years… there were a lot of people involved … but I think we were able to raise over $400,000!

(David and I) would not be where we are today, enjoying this wonderful retirement, without AAE, and all this can go away if we don’t all do our part … [Donors] were very appreciative of what endodontics has done for their lives and it shows in the assets of the Foundation.

DF: I grew up poor and I got some scholarships, and it really helped me. I just want to give back to some people who are coming up behind me who need a little help. My freshman year I got a scholarship from some foundation for $500 that paid for two semesters’ tuition, and I had $250 left over. It just kind of stuck with me that someone I have no connection to agreed to help me out. My mother was a temporary and a single parent. My dad had some alcohol problems and left. She worked as a Kelly girl and then got a job with Union Carbide.

The Funderburks established a scholarship at West Virginia University for dental students in need.

How did you get into dentistry?

DF: I was studying oceanography at University of Washington when I got a letter from Lyndon Johnson saying welcome to Vietnam… I got a deferment by going to dental school and joining the Air Force reserve, so I went into the Air Force as a dentist. My first wife’s uncle was a dentist who encouraged me. It never occurred to me to be a dentist, but you just bump into people along the way who can point you in a different direction.

Dr. (Eddie) Skidmore was a big influence on me. I taught at the dental school part time when I was a general dentist in Morgantown. Without Ed Skidmore, no telling where I would have gone. But it’s not like I sat down and planned my life. He’s probably one of my best friends now, it turns out he was my next-door neighbor in Morgantown. He and his wife would sneak over to my house and get in my hot tub at night. I had the first hot tub in Morgantown, it was an old redwood tub, so I was popular in the neighborhood. We just hit it off.

He was strict when I was in my program. Friendship didn’t get in the way of my education. Dr.  Balaban lived on the other side of me, so I was surrounded by people who just got me going in that direction.

How did you get involved with AAE

DF: Ed Skidmore insisted we get involved. He made sure we went to the meetings as residents. He really pushed getting involved…he just said, ‘you’re going to do it.’ I first got involved with ADA as a district trustee. If you’re going to complain about stuff you better get in a position to do something about it; don’t sit back and grumble-get involved!

Clara Spatafore got me involved in AAE (as a Director). It’s just been so rewarding; going to AAE22 and seeing all the energy and curiosity the young people had… that’s the lifeblood of our profession.

What do you cherish most about your involvement in AAE?

DF: One of the highlights of our involvement was getting that lifetime Spirit of Service award a few years ago. It was just such an honor.

RF: There’s not a soul that’s ever come to David’s office who didn’t get what they needed, especially if they didn’t have money….[David] has always worked with patients.

How would you like to be remembered?

DF: We’ve enjoyed life, it’s been a good journey. I just like people to think of me as a kind, generous person.

RF: When we do something, what we try to think about first is, if you do something good and somebody knows about it, that really doesn’t count.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, I don’t owe AAE anything, well of course you do! You got an education. You’ve got to look back on that professor who helped you get where you are.

I value the friendships more than anything. We’ve watched everyone’s kids grow up. It’s almost like a great big family. David was talking with three of them this morning.

DF: The relationships are lifetime…we’re going to France with a couple endodontists we met, and Antarctica… we’ve been all over the world.

RF: We’ve learned from them…they give, and we want to participate. How much money do you really need? Just try to help someone else and keep your profession going. Sometimes I hear people say, ‘Look at how much money the Foundation has!’ and want to give elsewhere. I don’t think they understand its importance to the profession.

West Virginia University did a lot for me. We created an endodontic scholarship program there honoring Dr [James A.] Griffin.  Any member can join the Freedland Society, that’s a no-brainer, you’re going to be gone, you’re not going to miss that money.