Dentistry class of ’68 delivers massive endowment honouring favourite mentor

The Dr. Douglas MacDougall Leadership Endowment has already supported 30 bursaries and scholarships, and that’s just the beginning.

27 February 2024

The members of the University of Alberta’s dentistry class of 1968 have always felt a special connection — to each other, to their school and to their instructors. It is this bond that has brought them back, year after year and decade after decade, to their class reunions, no matter how far they may have travelled since graduation. 

It is the deep respect for one instructor — Dr. Douglas MacDougall, a clinical teacher in restorative dentistry — that inspired the remaining members of the class of ’68 to launch a massive endowment in his name. Their efforts started 10 years ago during their 45th reunion and, after many years of dedicated fundraising, the Dr. Douglas MacDougall Leadership Endowment was declared an overwhelming success during their 55th reunion last year.

We spoke to class of ’68 alumnus John Eisner about the decision to honour Dr. MacDougall.

How does the class of ’68 remain so close?

We have gathered for a spring reunion every five years since graduation. The vast majority of us continue to attend, which is noteworthy because back when we were in school together, ours was the only dentistry program west of Winnipeg. Classmates came from all three western provinces and usually returned to their home province after graduation, making meeting for a reunion a challenge for many of us. 

We try to plan our reunions in different locations so as many people can attend as possible. The first was at the Overlander Lodge near Hinton, and in the years to follow we have met in coastal British Columbia and at the Jasper Park Lodge. Some members also hold local mini-reunions.

Up until his death in 2021 at the age of 102, Dr. MacDougall often attended our class reunions, and it was always special to reminisce with him on those occasions. 

What made Douglas MacDougall special as an instructor?

We felt he had been most helpful in guiding our clinical skills both in the operative lab and on the clinic floor. He was our favourite mentor; we appreciated his gentle but firm demeanour. (He also acted as a trusted mentor and advisor to our Edmonton-based classmates long after they graduated.) When graduation rolled around in 1968, we chose him as honorary class president. In 1992, on the 75th anniversary of the School of Dentistry, we honoured him once again with a plaque that hangs to this day in the Operative Dentistry office on campus, recognizing his 30 years of teaching. 

Tell us what led to the creation of the endowment.

In 2013, during our 45th reunion, class member Lloyd Culham read aloud a brief summary of each class member’s personality that Dr. MacDougall had written for us during our first reunion and suggested we should do something further to honour him. I suggested to Lloyd that an endowment could be created in his name. When this approach was mentioned, everyone heartily agreed and by the following year we had formed an endowment fund steering committee made up of Bruce Bessie, Rusty Dmytruk, Ellis Stonehocker, Ben Urner with me as chair.

How did the fund develop?

We decided on a target of $250,000, which would yield a projected annual interest of approximately $15,000 to $20,000. This would be split equally between professional leadership scholarships and student bursaries for students with the greatest financial need.

As soon as we began fundraising, three class members announced bequests totalling $100,000. With this as seed money, we shifted our focus to growing the cash component of the fund. About 80 per cent of our class started making cash donations. 

We also spread the word to graduates from other years in hopes that they might help us reach our goal. Over the years, with a large cash donation from a classmate and his spouse, donations from the MacDougall family, other donations from individual dentists, and finally a donation of $25,000 collected by Marcia Boyd from the dentistry class of ’69, we hit our goal!

Where do things stand now with the endowment?

After a final raffle during our 55th reunion last May, the steering committee was thrilled to announce that the Dr. Douglas MacDougall Leadership Endowment fund had exceeded its goal and had accumulated over $270,000 in donations and bequests. Dr. MacDougal personally presented the awards, at age 99 and he also gave a speech to the dental students, staff and guests present. 

In thanking us, chair Paul Major noted no other class in the history of the dental school had generated such enthusiasm or created such an endowment. It has already given out more than 30 scholarships and bursaries and will continue to do so annually, as long as the university continues to graduate new dental practitioners. 

We are pleased with this accomplishment, and we are pleased to honour the memory of Dr. Douglas MacDougall. We hope this story will inspire other classes to find similar ways to support the continuing financial needs of the dentistry department and acknowledge the efforts of special faculty members and staff who continue to develop the dental profession in Alberta. We’ve set the bar high — but we hope other classes from the past, present and future take up the challenge to exceed our efforts!

 John Eisner, DDS, PhD, FACD, Gies Fellow*

*Dr. Eisner was the 2017 recipient of the ADEA Gies Award for Vision, Innovation, and Achievement

If you or your class would like to give to the School of Dentistry, please visit this page for more information or contact Bryce Meldrum, Director of Development, School of Dentistry at or via phone at 780-318-4196.