Celebrating the ‘beginnings’
The student award ceremony at Texas A&M College of Dentistry goes hand in hand with the close of each academic year. It’s here that standout students are honored for their achievements — and not just scholastic prowess. Traits such as leadership and service are where many shine.
And each May, one graduating student from the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene receives the George B. Clendenin Award, a medal given to a dental hygiene student selected by their peers. This process is by design, says Patricia Wessendorff Londeree, the founding director of Caruth, who created the award when the program was only 10 years old.
“I felt that sometimes the students knew each other better than the faculty,” she says, “when it comes to seeing evidence of such qualities of dedication, real desire to deliver good care to the patient, personal values and morals.”
Wessendorff understands the importance of a dental hygienist’s role well, as she entered the profession in its infancy. Within three years of graduating from dental hygiene school at Temple University in Philadelphia, she had earned a bachelor’s degree, served on her alma mater’s clinical faculty and gained her footing in private practice. Then Dallas beckoned when Wessendorff was recruited in 1954 and served as director of the college’s dental hygiene program from 1955 to 1961.
She attributes much of the direction of her career to her dentist father, Dr. George B. Clendenin. His influence on dental hygiene in Maryland, his state of residence, was strong. Not only did he hire the first licensed dental hygienist in the state, he worked to achieve licensure for the profession, even serving on its board of examiners.
It makes sense that when Wessendorff wanted to find a way to give back to the dental school, she created the award in memory of him. What’s noteworthy is that she has maintained a personal connection to the award for more than five decades, with the accompanying medal given to each honoree as a gift.
“I continue to provide this medal as a way to honor my father and to continue in a small way to encourage young women in a profession that I have had the pleasure to benefit from,” says Wessendorff. “I have marveled at the expansion, advancements and growth, feeling proud to have been part of the ‘beginnings.’”