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Biologic and Materials Sciences and Division of Prosthodontics

Joseph A. Clayton Graduate Scholarship Fund

Planting a Seed, Growing the Future of Prosthodontics

Dr. Joseph Clayton knows from personal experience how important financial support can be for graduate students in dentistry. After earning his D.D.S. degree in 1959, he was offered a teaching position at his alma mater, the Washington University School of Dentistry in St. Louis. "During those five years in the classroom, I discovered my true vocation," he says. "But to pursue a career in university teaching, I needed graduate-level training. Fortunately, I was offered quite sizable scholarships from various sources. Those funds enabled me to complete M.S. degrees in Dental Prosthesis and Restorative Dentistry. I will always be grateful for that assistance."

Upon completing his graduate studies in 1967, Dr. Clayton was offered a faculty position at the School of Dentistry. He began his academic career in the Crown and Bridge Department, which later became the Department of Prosthodontics. For 25 years, until his retirement in 1996, he helped develop, direct and teach in the department's graduate program in Restorative Dentistry. "I love teaching," he says emphatically, "and I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of top-notch graduate students, people who have gone on to become department heads, administrators, and faculty members all over the world. Knowing that I've helped to influence dentistry in such a way has been a tremendous source of satisfaction for me."

Maintaining Michigan's Competitive Edge
In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Dr. Clayton also served on the department's admissions committee. It was an eye-opening experience. "Year by year, the competition for top-caliber graduate students was steadily increasing," he says. "At the same time, the cost of a graduate education continued to rise. It became evident that the Department of Prosthodontics simply did not have the funds to be truly competitive. The stipends were often as small as $1,000 per year, which meant that we lost outstanding students to other schools."

The solution, he realized, was for individuals to take the initiative in setting up scholarships. And this past year, that's precisely what he did. The Joseph A. Clayton Graduate Scholarship Fund was created in June of 1998 with a gift of real estate worth $115,000. The fund is designed to benefit students enrolled in the prosthodontics graduate program who are working toward an accredited M.S. or Certificate.

In discussing the steps that led to his gift, Dr. Clayton says that "things just fell into place." He goes on to explain: "I've been concerned for some time about graduate education in prosthodontics and searching for a way to help students in the department. Back in 1967, I purchased lakefront property in northern Michigan, which over the years, increased in value. Currently the capital gains on that land amount to 90 percent of its total worth. Like so many people these days, I have a comfortable retirement and need neither the property nor the money it would generate. If I gave the property to family members, they would be forced to pay an excessive tax. Giving it to the School of Dentistry as seed money for a scholarship fund was the perfect solution."

A Promising Start
Dr. Clayton's gift, as generous as it is, represents only the first step in creating a scholarship fund capable of generating significant stipends. According to Richard Fetchiet, director of development and external relations for the School of Dentistry, University policy presently requires that no more than 5 percent per year may be withdrawn from any single endowed scholarship fund. "Which means that, at its current level of approximately $100,000, the Joseph A. Clayton Graduate Scholarship Fund will produce only $5,000 annually for scholarships. Clearly, we need to grow the fund, and the way to do that is through contributions from alumni and friends."

The ultimate goal for the fund is $500,000, an amount that would yield an annual stipend of $25,000. Dr. Clayton is optimistic that former students and others interested in the future of prosthodontics will respond to this challenge. "Most of us received some financial support for our education," he says. "This fund gives us a chance to pass the financial support on to the next generation. We all have appreciated stocks, property and retirement funds that are in excess. The intelligent choice, I believe, is to make a contribution to the School of Dentistry that will directly benefit students. After all, the best gift we can offer anyone is an education. It will last a lifetime."

Anyone interested in learning more about the Joseph A. Clayton Graduate Scholarship Fund is invited to contact Richard Fetchiet at (734) 763-3315. Gifts may be sent to:

University of Michigan School of Dentistry
Office of Development, Room 1208
1011 North University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1078