How unusual is a donor like Murray Rosenthal?
There are many others like him—UB alumni who reach back in their own special ways to help others following similar paths. Indeed, University at Buffalo Foundation records show that alumni fund 234 scholarships across the university totaling more than $15.3 million in endowments.
The Matthew Grappone Memorial Scholarship is named for an alumnus of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) who died unexpectedly at age 30, Matthew Grappone, B.S. ’97 & B.S. ’92. His best friend and fellow graduate, Kevin Shortt, B.S. ’02 & B.S. ’02, worked to set up the annual scholarship for SEAS students who also work in Computing and Information Technology, where Grappone worked at the time of his death.
“UB was such a large part of his life,” Shortt says. “So I had the idea to develop an everlasting gift for Matt through the school he loved, creating it to continue in perpetuity and letting it live.”
Shortt set out to raise the $20,000 necessary for an endowment by first contributing $1,000 himself. He sent an e-mail letter to 75 people who knew Grappone. “Within a week, I had received informal promises of more than $5,000,” Shortt says.
Pamela Maude Emerson, B.S. ’52, born during the Great Depression, knows how to handle money. “I learned how to save pennies,” Emerson says about how she managed to save a substantial amount that she has pledged as a bequest donation to establish scholarships for female students in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Margaret Crimaldi Quinn, J.D. ’70 & B.S. ’60—also a UB pharmacy school graduate—is in the process of establishing a scholarship for students in the UB Law School. She switched careers from pharmacy to law after her husband died. Quinn wants the scholarship to be awarded to law students facing the same circumstances she did upon her return to UB as an older, single parent struggling to make ends meet.
Scholarships with a signature style
New York City dentist gets to know the students who benefit from his personal philanthropy and interest in their lives
Story by Mary Cochrane
Photo by Douglas Levere, B.A. ’89
Murray Rosenthal, D.D.S. ’63, has five good reasons to go to work each day: the five recipients of the Rosenthal Family Scholarship. Each year since 2000, these three-year scholarships have been awarded to financially strapped sophomore dental students in the UB School of Dental Medicine.
And while all five students describe ways they have benefited from the scholarship, its creator claims to be the biggest beneficiary of all. “I’m glad I have the wherewithal to do this,” Rosenthal says. “This is all pushing me to continue my practice, if I’m going to do this for these students.”
The Rosenthal Family Scholarship also represents two other UB dental school graduates: Murray’s father, Garson “George” Rosenthal, D.D.S. ’34 & B.S. ’33, and Murray’s younger brother, Dean A. Rosenthal, D.D.S. ’76 & B.A. ’72. (Editor’s note: Sadly, Garson Rosenthal died on March 24, 2005, as this article was being prepared for publication.)
In addition to paying a part of the tuition for three students each year, Murray Rosenthal, dental director for the Children’s Aid Society in New York, reaches out directly to each of these students. He returns at least once a year to Buffalo and UB, traveling from New York City to meet and dine with recipients collectively to ensure they are getting everything they need. Rosenthal makes a point of staying in touch with them not only at these meetings but also via e-mail, even after they graduate.
The most recent recipient, Kellie Greenich ’07, says this about her mentor: “Getting to know him makes me feel like I have something to aspire to, someone to ask advice, someone to count on.”
The first scholarship winner—Denise Brown, D.D.S. ’03, now in her second year of orthodontic residency at the University of California–San Francisco—puts it this way: “I hope that someday I can give back half of what he has given.”
Jason Grinter, D.D.S. ’04, now in general practice residency in the Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s department of dentistry, says that to Rosenthal, the recipients are “almost like his children.” He adds: “It’s unusual to meet someone who cares enough about the lives of future dentists to make a financial contribution this large.” Joshua Haremza ’05, who calls Rosenthal “a great man,” also hopes “to one day be as successful as he has become both in dentistry and in life.” Indeed, the example of Rosenthal’s generosity has prompted Grinter to consider his own philanthropic contributions down the road. “I plan to do the same thing Dr. Rosenthal has done,” he says. “Someday I’d like to make a trip back to UB and meet the dental students who receive my scholarship award. I’ll talk of how one stranger made an impact on my life that I’ll never forget.”
Anthony Lister ’06 also hopes to emulate Rosenthal during his career. “One can plan to live in a way that is most likely to allow for generosity and engagement with life,” he says. “I can say this about Murray [Rosenthal]: to me, he seems to live life like that. I think he is also one of the happiest people I’ve met.”
Rosenthal learned about dentistry from his grandfather and father. However, his aunt—a liberal activist who brought him to civil rights marches in 1963—taught him about public service, and his mother—a dental hygienist and community volunteer—modeled giving back to others.
As a result, throughout his career, Rosenthal, former director of the Bureau of Dental Health Services in the New York City Department of Health, has given to those who could not afford professional dental care.
To continue his giving to the community, Rosenthal initially had planned to turn the stock market surge of a half-dozen years ago into the beginnings of a scholarship fund, something equal to one year’s tuition for a student that he would give in a bequest to UB. But he had spent years in classrooms as a lecturer at New York University’s College of Dentistry, as well as at Columbia University’s School of Dental and Oral Surgery, and the lively discussions with students reminded him of his years at UB.
Instead, Rosenthal had other thoughts, setting up the scholarship to “allow these young people to develop themselves instead of worrying about survival issues. They need to know someone is rooting for them. And I want to show them you can do this whether you get paid for it, or volunteer. You give back. It’s about giving back.”
For Rosenthal, giving back means much more than signing and mailing a check. He says, “I want them to see me as a human being.” Furthermore, he continues, “What is the impact of a living person, still in business, who helps by keeping in touch and being interested in them?
“I got to thinking, ‘Why not do it while I’m alive and can enjoy it?’” He says, “It’s a joy I’ll have the rest of my life.”
“[Murray Rosenthal] helped me realize how important giving back is,” Denise Brown remembers. “It is easy to take for granted the wonderful education that we receive at UB. We reflect back on the long nights and tough exams and think ‘why should I give back after going through that?’ He demonstrates how important it is to support upcoming generations, so they feel they are part of a family and not going through it on their own.”
Mary Cochrane is senior editor in University News Services.