Former Manhattanite donates $500k to Texas

By The Mercury

University of Texas media relations

When Fred Garrett was growing up in Kansas in the 1940s, his schoolteacher parents worked hard to make a living in the public school system, setting an example that would shape his life.

Dr. Garrett’s father worked as a principal at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, while his mom worked in the math department at what is now Kansas State University. Garrett graduated from Manhattan High School in Dec. 1953.

Now, 76-year-old Fred Garrett, DDS, MS, is a board-certified orthodontist and clinical professor at The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, where he and his wife, Dianne, have established the first endowed chair in the school’s 107-year history.  The school is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Representing a $500,000 commitment, the Fred A. and Dianne F. Garrett Endowed Chair in Orthodontics is dedicated to Fred’s parents, Frank A. and Rosa Lee Garrett, “and all the other educators who, through their personal sacrifices, provided me with an education and the guidance to become a successful orthodontist,” Fred Garrett wrote into the documents establishing the gift.

When awarded, the funds will be used at the discretion of the department chair to enhance the Department of Orthodontics in ways not otherwise funded by UTHealth School of Dentistry, such as student travel to educational events, giving the department chair “a way to make everything run smoothly when times are down,” Garrett said. “It will help the chair maintain the quality you want to have.”

Garrett has been on the School of Dentistry faculty since 1968, teaching one day a week while maintaining a practice in Sugar Land.  He graduated magna cum laude from Washington University School of Dentistry in St. Louis, Mo. in 1958, returning for a master of science degree in orthodontics in 1963. In between, he served three years in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps in Hawaii, where he met Dianne on a blind date. They’ve now been married more than 50 years.

“I’ve been here so long, people assume I’m a graduate,” said Garrett, whose actual alma mater - once known as the oldest dental school west of Mississippi - closed in 1991.  “This endowed chair is the first ever funded at this school. I hope this will encourage others to step up.”

Garrett is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists. He is a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society and was Washington University’s Orthodontic Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus of 1984.

He is a past president of the Southwestern Society of Orthodontists and was honored with their Martin E. Dewey Memorial Award for service to the specialty. He is also a recipient of the American Association of Orthodontists’ James E. Brophy Award for national service.  Garrett has served 18 years on the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation Board and is their current national campaign chairman. He will receive the Eugene and Pauline Blair Distinguished Service Award at the AAOF’s annual meeting in May 2012.

At the UTHealth School of Dentistry, he has twice served as interim chair or program director of the Department of Orthodontics, and he was presented the department’s Yellen-Schoverling Award in 1995.

With the closing of Washington University’s dental school, Garrett expanded his loyalty to UTHealth.  “I’ve really, truly adopted Texas, and they’ve adopted me,” he said.

He and Dianne hope their history-making gift will inspire others to consider supporting education at the School of Dentistry.

“Education is at the heart of every profession,” he said, “so I dedicate this endowment to my parents and all the other educators who, through their personal sacrifices, provided me with an education and the guidance to become a successful orthodontist.”

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