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Driving the future of oral health

Car enthusiast and faculty member makes estate gift to help school thrive

Driving the future of oral health
Driving the future of oral health
Dr. Arthur Jeske, DMD, PhD and his sister Ms. Valerie Link

He still has all his fingers. After more than 30 years of rebuilding old cars and engines, Arthur Jeske, DMD, PhD, considers it a notable achievement—and an important one given his occupation as a dentist.

“You learn a lot,” Jeske, Professor and Associate Dean for Strategic Planning and Continuing Dental Education at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry, says of his hobby. “Some of those lessons are pretty challenging, but some of them are a lot of fun.”

Learning has animated Jeske’s life from the early days when his father, a scientist, sparked his inquisitiveness with chemistry sets and biology specimens. Jeske pursued a PhD in pharmacology at the Medical College of Georgia, where he also landed his first junior faculty role teaching the subject to medical and dental students.

“I saw that dentistry related a lot to what I like to do: working with my hands and combining art and science,” he says. “So, I enthusiastically became a dental student while I was a faculty member.”

Jeske earned his DMD in 1978 and, drawn to the city of Houston and the opportunities the School of Dentistry offered, launched a career teaching pharmacology and dentistry while practicing general dentistry part-time in a private dental office.

Since joining the faculty at the School of Dentistry, Jeske has experienced a dramatic evolution of teaching methods, from handwritten notes and overhead projectors to digital animation. He has grown, too, by enhancing his communication abilities and sharing the knowledge he has gained about a broad range of topics—from the opioid crisis to local anesthesia.

Through serving on the school’s admissions committee and engaging in recruitment trips, he also learned about the financial challenges prospective students faced when looking to attend dental school.

“I got to meet outstanding kids who probably had everything they needed to go to dental school except the money,” he says.

Always one to put his learning into action, Jeske decided to make an estate commitment to the School of Dentistry to help students pursue their dreams for generations to come. In concert with the UTHealth Houston Many Faces. One Mission. campaign and its focus on training the next generation of health professionals, half of his gift will create the Arthur H. Jeske, DMD, PhD, and Ms. Valerie Link Scholarship endowment (named after his sister, with whom he shares a close bond) to provide financial aid to dental students. The other half will establish the Arthur H. Jeske, DMD, PhD, and Ms. Valerie Link Dean’s Support Fund, which will provide flexible resources to enable the dean of the school to strengthen education, research, and community outreach.

Through an initiative to help donors who wish to update their estate plans or simply want to know more about the process, UTHealth Houston Office of Development offered Jeske the services of estate planning experts Thompson & Associates at no cost.

“I honestly didn’t know how to develop and implement an estate plan, but they led me through the process” Jeske says. “It was truly a gift to me, and I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Having secured a legacy that will support the School of Dentistry and its students long into the future, Jeske plans to take his latest car restoration project—a 1984 Indianapolis 500 race car driven by Danny Ongais, the only native Hawaiian to compete in the famous race—for a spin at the Indianapolis Speedway with other historic Indy cars. Driving into a future he sees as bright and full of promise, both for himself and the school that has been such a major part of his story.

“I’ve watched UTHealth Houston develop over the past 44 years, and it’s always gotten better,” he says. “I think that’s one thing that will never change.”

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