2009 Distinguished Alumnus is Dentistry Award

William Becker, D.D.S., Dent '61


William BeckerIt’s obvious that a person has chosen the right career when he talks about it with enthusiasm years after receiving his degree.

Such is the case with Dr. Bill Becker, a clinical professor of periodontology at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. He was the Saul Schluger Endowed Chair of Periodontics at the University of Washington in Seattle from 1993-94 and is an affiliate professor there.

Bill received his specialty training in periodontology and master’s degree at the Baylor College of Dentistry and an honorary doctorate in odontology from Gothenburg University in Sweden. He has been on numerous national boards and received several major awards, including the master clinician award from the American Academy of Periodontology.

An author of more than 100 studies and papers about his specialty, Bill has lectured all over the world. He was co-author of the Journal of Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research, all while maintaining a busy private practice in Tucson, Ariz.

So what keeps him motivated after years of practice, teaching, touring, writing and sitting on boards?

He still loves it. And he cherishes his Marquette education. He says the university taught him principles and “instilled a sense of professional ethics, the will to continually strive for perfection and make dental education a lifetime experience.”

Which explains Bill’s statement that next to his family, “The greatest joy I receive every day is to go to the office and practice with my brother and spend time with our patients.”

2009 Outstanding Dental Service Award

Rick. A. Kushner, D.D.S., Dent '77


Rick KushnerDental care always has been expensive, but Dr. Rick A. Kushner didn’t think it needed to be. So 30 years ago he founded Comfort Dental, which offers high-quality dental services to everyone, particularly lower-income patients, in Colorado and three other states.

More than one million patients have been served, making Comfort Dental the largest true dental franchise in the country. It is also one of the largest Medicaid providers in Colorado. “Our target market is lower-income working people,” he says.

The company charges about half of what Colorado dentists typically do and has extended hours to accommodate working families. And since 1984, services in all 60 offices are free on December 24. Since the project began, more than 50,000 patients have been treated, representing $9 million in free service.

Rick makes clear that Marquette was instrumental in his decision to develop Comfort Dental.

“Despite the highly technical nature of our work, the message of giving back to the community got through,” he says. “It became a part of me.”

Rick says this happened because of Marquette’s small class sizes and individual attention.

“I felt so much support from my professors and fellow students,” he says. “I would call Marquette a comfortable place, for my studies and my social life. It was all there.”


2009 Friend of the School of Dentistry Award

Wayne G. Holt


Wayne HoltWayne Holt discovered an interest — and eventually his career — while in Okinawa. He had been studying at Marquette when he was called into the service in the early 1950s, and he was assigned to an overseas dental lab. There, Wayne learned many things about the profession, particularly its equipment.

He entered the dental supply business upon returning, and after working in sales for several companies, he partnered with Robert Sullivan to start Sullivan Dental Products in West Allis, Wis.

“I moved from sales to management to ownership,” he says.

Eighty to 90 percent of Wayne’s customer base was composed of Marquette Dental School graduates, and the relationships he built, particularly at Sullivan, came from regular contact with MU-educated dentists.

“I made many friends over the course of my career,” says Wayne, who retired from Sullivan Dental as vice president of equipment in 1996.

Wayne’s memories of the dentists he worked with inspired him to recognize them, as well as educate future dentists. When the new School of Dentistry was built in 2002, Wayne made a generous contribution to the Preclinical Simulation Laboratory, which bears his name.

“This is how I can acknowledge the support of the dentists I worked with while helping Marquette prepare future graduates,” he says. “The dental community was very good to me.”