Cole and Whiteaker-Hurt enter Hall of Fame

January 5th, 2007

This article appeared in the 2005-2006 Baylor Dental Journal.

On January 22, 2005, Baylor College of Dentistry presented its highest honor, the Hall of Fame Award, to Dr. Bettye Whiteaker-Hurt ’68, ’70 and Dr. James S. Cole ’75 for their distinguished service to the college and the dental profession.

The Hall of Fame presentations were a highlight of BCD’s centennial gala at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.

Dr. James S. Cole, dean, presents the Hall of Fame Award to Dr. Bettye Whiteaker-Hurt.

Dr. James S. Cole, dean, presents the Hall of Fame Award to Dr. Bettye Whiteaker-Hurt.

Periodontist mentors and leads

Whiteaker-Hurt formally retired four years ago from periodontics practice, but her dedication to education continues. She maintains a keen interest in the scholarships she has established at three different schools and still can be found periodically in the BCD periodontics clinic, instructing and encouraging residents in the practice of her specialty.

“Her name is synonymous with a smile,” wrote Dr. Melissa Tricamo ’04 in support of Whiteaker-Hurt’s nomination. A former graduate student, Tricamo received the Bettye M. Whiteaker, D.D.S., M.S.D. Endowed Scholarship in Periodontics at BCD. Twenty-­three students have been awarded the scholarship since it was initiated in 1982.

“In fact, when Dr. Whiteaker-Hurt is around, it is unlikely you’ll see anyone with a frown because she makes each individual from the students to the staff to the faculty to the maintenance crew feel important and of great worth,” Tricamo continues. “I feel that each day I am surrounded by the best faculty in periodontics in the nation. With that said, Dr. Whiteaker-Hurt stands out amongst what I believe is the best of the best.”

An assistant clinical professor in periodontics, Whiteaker-Hurt has taught in some capacity at BCD for 37 years, yet her dedication to teaching and scholarship is only a fraction of her commitment to the college. She served as a member of the college’s board of trustees, contributed in varied leadership roles for the alumni association and is currently a member of the Baylor Oral Health Foundation board of directors. She received the BCD Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993.

The first woman to win the Gold Medal for academic excellence in 1968, Whiteaker-Hurt served as president of the Dallas County Dental Society and chaired the Dallas Mid­Winter Dental Clinic (now known as the Southwest Dental Conference). She is a fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists. In 1976, she established the Whiteaker International Scholarship at Dallas Baptist University, where she also has served as a trustee. That was followed in 1982 by the establishment of the periodontics scholarship at BCD. In 1988, she established a scholarship benefiting science majors at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., her alma mater.

Sharing knowledge, resources

Whiteaker-Hurt’s interest in funding scholarships began after she received a National Science Foundation grant to complete her master’s degree in natural sciences. “My personal experience as a scholarship recipient deepened my desire to help other students,” Whiteaker-Hurt says. “Since I had been blessed immeasurably, I also wanted to express my gratitude by establishing scholarship funds at the educational institutions that had influenced my life.”

Her colleagues respect and admire not only her professional skill but also her warm personality and humanitarian efforts.

“Dr. Whiteaker-Hurt’s remarkable insight, ability to communicate with others, superb professional ability and genuine concern and sensitivity for her fellow human beings are exceedingly rare in today’s world,” says Dr. Bill Hallmon, professor and chair of BCD’s periodontics department, who nominated Whiteaker-Hurt for the Hall of Fame award. “She possesses an innate ability to lead and motivate others – another rare gift.

“Through her generosity, means and encouragement, numerous individuals have graduated from colleges and dental school who otherwise might have never seized or, more importantly, been afforded the opportunity,” concludes Hallmon.

Health Science Center President Dr. Nancy W. Dickey presents the Hall of Fame Award to Dr. James S. Cole.

Health Science Center President Dr. Nancy W. Dickey presents the Hall of Fame Award to Dr. James S. Cole.

Dean’s leadership prompts advances

Cole is respected by faculty, students and staff for his quiet, high-integrity leadership during 29 years as a BCD professor and administrator. Evidence of his stature: The July 2000 announcement that Cole had been named dean of the college was greeted with a standing ovation from members of the college community.

“Jim Cole epitomizes what a dean should be,” says Dr. Amp Miller ’73, a longtime friend who is a professor in the Department of Restorative Sciences and director of curriculum in the Office of Academic Affairs.

“He’s a detail guy, but he also sees the big picture and knows this college from the inside out. He has been a student, a faculty member and an administrator in a variety of capacities. As a result, he knows everyone at every level of the organization. He’s approachable and well-liked. With Jim in charge, you know things are going to be managed well.”

During the six years Cole has led BCD, the college has flourished. Students have achieved new milestones and research grant funds have increased significantly. The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has approved a master plan that will help guide BCD’s growth and expansion for the next 20 years. The first phase of that plan, a new Sciences Building dedicated primarily to research, is now occupied. In addition, the college has completed a comprehensive technology facelift.

BCD’s patient management system, the Dental Simulation Clinic, Lab 30, newly digitized classrooms and laptops for first-year dental students are all step-by-step technological improvements that underscore the college’s commitment to both students and patients.

Cole knows firsthand the impact the technology has on the student experience at BCD. “Technological advances in just the past few years have enabled us to offer our students digital technology and simulation training that give them an enormous advantage when they begin their clinical experience,” he says.

Decades of dedicated service

A Naval officer and decorated Vietnam War veteran who participated in the recovery of disabled space capsule Apollo 13, Cole began his longtime career with the dental school in 1977 when he was named a professor in the Department of Restorative Sciences.

Four years later, Cole was named director of computer services and went on to serve in a number of different administrative roles including executive vice president for administration and finance, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, vice dean and interim dean. He served as president and treasurer of the Baylor Oral Health Foundation from 1996 to 2000. In addition, from October 2000 through December 2001, he served as interim president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Cole is a fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists. He has been named Dentist of the Year by the Dallas County Dental Society and received the BCD Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002. In 2001, the Texas House of Representatives recognized him for his outstanding accomplishments in academia and dedication to dental education.

— Carolyn Cox