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Smiles all around as officials 'top' dental school

Dr. Ledyard Ross signs the topping out beam at the ECU School of Dental Medicine as his wife, Alta, looks on. Photo by Elbert Kennard
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (July 15, 2011)   —   Local, state and university leaders lined up today to put their signatures on a beam marking a milestone in the construction of the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine.

Approximately 100 people gathered at the construction site of Ross Hall for a "topping out" ceremony, which symbolizes the completion of the steel structure of the dental school building. The first signer was Dr. Ledyard Ross, a retired Greenville orthodontist who has pledged $4 million to the school and for whom the building is named.

The 184,000-square-foot building is rising four stories high on land near the ECU Health Sciences Building on West Fifth Street.

"The old saying is beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in my eye, that is beautiful," said Dr. Steve Ballard, ECU chancellor, as he gestured toward the building.

Officials expect the school to help ease the statewide shortage of dentists, especially in eastern North Carolina. Four eastern counties -- Gates, Tyrrell, Hyde and Camden -- have no dentists. The new school will aim to educate dentists who want to stay in the state to practice, particularly in rural areas.

"The mission of ECU is to serve the region and state," Ballard said. "This school today certainly adds to that mission."

The first class of 52 students will enter the dental school in August. All are North Carolina residents. They will begin their studies in the Brody Medical Sciences Building until Ross Hall is complete. That is scheduled to be next June.

Meanwhile, the school is hiring faculty and finishing its curriculum, which will be largely computer- and simulation-based. Outside Greenville, four community service learning centers are being planned across the state with the site for a fifth one to be announced soon. At those centers, faculty members, dental residents and fourth-year dental students will provide care.

"I know what a good school can accomplish, and we have all the goods," said Dr. James Hupp, dean of the school.

North Carolina general construction firm Balfour Beatty is building the dental school. Architects are Raleigh-based-firm BJAC and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Pennsylvania.


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2482