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When Giving is More Than Writing a Check

As the holidays and end of the year approach, I have been asked to think about “giving” and what it means to me. Usually, this starts out with ”Where’s the checkbook?” but recently I was inspired to consider all the other forms of “giving” while participating in an event in Florida.

I just returned from Gainesville, Fla., where I was invited by Dr. Roberta Pileggi to attend a tribute and farewell party for Dr. Charles “Chuck” Cunningham, past president of the AAE and past Coolidge award winner, and University of Florida faculty for 28 years. I have known Chuck for over 45 years beginning when I was DT2 in the U.S. Navy at 32nd St., San Diego, in 1974. He was the only senior OOD (officer of the day) that would come back into the enlisted barracks for “lights out at 10:00 p.m.” and walk through the WWII barracks that the DT students slept in and insure that a fire and security watch was present. There had been some tragedies with barracks like ours when a fire would break out. They could go down in a minute and Chuck knew this and made sure the sailors weren’t at risk under his watch. That spoke eons to me about then, Commander Cunningham and his expressed concern for the well-being of the troops.

As life has it, I was re-introduced to Dr. Cunningham when I was a full-time educator beginning in 1983. I was fortunate to be able to actually serve under Dr. Cunningham again when I became a director for the ABE and he was president in 2001. That same year he received the Coolidge award and gave a heartfelt acceptance speech that had most of us “misty” if not out-right crying along with him. To get back to the most recent event honoring Chuck, Dr. Pileggi asked each of the attendees to use one word to describe Chuck. “Integrity”, “Devotion”, “Kindness”, “Compassion”, “Legacy”, “Empathy” , “Example”, and “Mentor”, were just a few words used to describe him. That night, I was a witness to what Dr. Chuck Cunningham meant to all who were present. These individuals he had taught, served with and nurtured, were there to honor him and for his part, he remained as humble as he has always been. My personal thoughts about his influence on me was, “I am a better person for having known him and witnessed his legacy of giving”.

His giving includes a full career in service to his country in the U.S. Navy; his longtime service to the AAE, ABE and Foundation being president of the ABE (2000-2001) and the AAE (1987-88); and his 28-year teaching career, spanning from the University of Kentucky to the University of Florida. He is my best example of someone who has given more than dollars to the specialty of endodontics. “Fair winds and following seas”: Dr. Charles J. Cunningham!

I also want to “poke” each of you a little bit to consider your legacy to endodontics. You need to consider “giving” in some form or the other, or in as many ways as you can. If you are not already giving of yourself in teaching part-time at a dental school near you, please consider it. As a specialty, we need to have “endodontists teaching endodontics ”. Teaching pre-doctoral students is more important than ever because of our recognition that  there is but a single standard of care for endodontics. Pre-doctoral students must learn their limitations while in school, so patient health care remains at a high standard and they recognize when to refer for treatment. Who better to teach them than endodontists?

Please consider advocating for our specialty in study clubs, district dental meetings and even the state dental board when needed. Be a voice locally and promote endodontics! Support our Worth Saving campaign. If you would like to help support issues of concern for endodontics and dentistry in general, please visit our Advocacy Center at and contact your representatives and senators regarding two bill currently before the House and Senate. I have done this and it takes less than five minutes because all the resources are at our website!

If “life” has you “bundled up” with your family, finances, or relationships, then consider financially supporting the Foundation as a donor. A donation to the Foundation is an investment in yourself. Please consider donating just  one hour or more of income a year to the Foundation. As you become more secure, donate a day’s income a year, and maybe progress to a week’s income a year!! If you are an older endodontist retired or active, consider making a bequest which can become your legacy. Ruby Schucker can assist you with the forms and will be happy to talk to you about how to make things happen.

My final thoughts on “giving” have me going full circle back to Dr. Cunningham and his inspirational life. This will cost you minutes or your time and nothing financially. I would like to ask all of you who know Dr. Cunningham (and those who don’t know him), to wish him a Happy Birthday on December 31 this year. Look for him on Facebook and return to him, the love he has given to our specialty. OK?

Oh yeah! Get out the checkbook for the foundation of your choice! Yes, I said of your choice. You owe it to give back locally, institutionally and nationally. Even as an almost retiree, I still donate to my church, community college, university and Foundation for Endodontics. Also,  I am sure there can be a tax deduction at some level!