Future dental students will someday walk under an entrance bearing the name of one of East Carolina University’s most generous donors.
The ECU Board of Trustees named the School of Dentistry building after Dr. Ledyard E. Ross, an 84-year-old retired orthodontist and ECU alumnus who gave $4 million to the School of Dentistry—one of the largest one-time gifts in ECU’s history. Ross’s gift will support several academic interests for the school, including student scholarships and faculty research.
An architectural rendering of the completed Ledyard E. Ross Hall and future home of the School of Dentistry
“First of all, you’ve got to have good instructors, and we want to help get good instructors because the dentists aren’t any better than the instructors,” Ross said. “The instructors have got to be top notch.”
Ross’s mother and sister also attended ECU, as well as one of his daughters. A former Marine who took advantage of the GI Bill, Ross attended and graduated from then-East Carolina College, earned his master of science degree in orthodontics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received a doctor of dental surgery from the Northwestern University Dental School.
Ross has supported several East Carolina initiatives and is also a member of the Leo Jenkins Society and the Order of the Cupola.
When it is finished, the 100,000-square-foot Ledyard E. Ross Hall will be the center for training students to be dentists as well as servants who provide regular health-care services to underserved communities. The first dental students will be admitted in fall 2011. The university expects to admit 50 students with each class.
The ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation board presents a heart-shaped chair to Dr. Ledyard E. Ross as thanks for the big heart behind his gift.
On Thursday, February 25, Ross was honored during a private dinner at the Greenville Country Club, hosted by the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation Inc. board. With nearly 90 people in attendance, including local dentists, Ross was recognized for his generosity and presented a small, heart-shaped chair to signify the big heart behind his contribution.
“It shows community confidence and support for the dental school at a very critical time, and it allows us to move full steam ahead with our plans to build the dental school,” said Carole Novick, president of the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation Inc.
On Friday, February 26, the Board of Trustees officially announced Ross’s gift and recognized his generosity by naming the dental school building after him. Ross was received with a standing ovation from board members and the audience.
Chancellor Steve Ballard said the gift would have several benefits for the School of Dentistry.
“It will mean better faculty, retaining those faculty, world-class programs, and most importantly … that we will be getting North Carolinians into the ECU dental school, and we know that model works from the Brody School of Medicine and the Brody scholarships,” he said.
Chancellor Steve Ballard and Dr. Ledyard E. Ross talk during the ECU Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, February 26.
Not only is Ross’s gift one of the most generous donations ever received by any dental school in the country, it also will have a greater impact for the young school because it arrived at a critical juncture and during an economic downturn, said Dr. James R. Hupp, dean of the School of Dentistry.
“Dentists don’t have a lot of situations where a dentist is a hero, so this will be inspirational,” he said.
University officials don’t expect students to be the only ones who are inspired by Ross’s gift. When other people hear about his story, they might make a donation of their own.
“We’ve seen it happen at other places,” said Mickey Dowdy, vice chancellor of University Advancement. “It plants seeds about what can be, and I think people read about this and think about it themselves.”