Happy trails

Dedicated, determined orthodontic leader retires to ranch
September 1st, 2017

Dr. Phillip CampbellIf there’s a need, Dr. Phil Campbell ’71, ’73 (Ortho) puts boots to the ground and gets to work. That’s the way it’s always been, and it will continue even after his Aug. 31 retirement from Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

Campbell played a pivotal role more than 30 years ago in the establishment of the Robert E. Gaylord Endowed Chair in orthodontics, the college’s first endowed chair. His personal phone calls to fellow orthodontic alumni, which included putting Gaylord on the line, resulted in multi-year pledges that eventually reached the $1 million endowment level. It’s just one example of his dedication to the dental school and specialty he reveres.

“I definitely believe this is the best dental school in the country,” Campbell says. “We graduate really good dentists; we always have, and we always will. In the orthodontic department, we are one of the top graduate programs in the country.”

Campbell’s leadership has included serving on the dental college’s board of trustees, the Baylor Oral Health Foundation board and the Alumni Association board, including a term as president. After retiring from private practice in Huntsville, Texas, Campbell joined the dental school’s orthodontic faculty full time in 2005, became the clinic director, was named holder of the endowed chair, and eventually was appointed chairman of the Department of Orthodontics.

The department and its graduates receive top national honors for their research and scholarly activities. This is a priority for Campbell, who is himself a clinical researcher and even holds patents for a product he developed to treat aphthous ulcers. In 2008 he gifted the college with the Kimberly Campbell Seminar Room and announced the establishment of a permanent endowment for orthodontic research in honor of his daughter. Kimberly passed away last year; Campbell’s planned bequest in her memory will augment this endowment to benefit orthodontic research in the department.

Campbell was instrumental in the creation of the Peter H. Buschang Endowed Professorship, which also provides funding to advance orthodontic research. A dental college Hall of Fame member and Distinguished Alumnus, Campbell plans to continue his academic ties after retirement, serving on multiple thesis committees and continuing as an examiner for the American Board of Orthodontics. Complacency is not one of his personality traits.

“I always tell our residents it doesn’t matter what award we won yesterday, we want to be better tomorrow than we are today,” he says. “We are at the top, but we’ve got to keep going higher.”

Widely known as a longtime advocate for the college retaining its Baylor name, Campbell, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, may have given the perception of shunning his Aggie rivals. There’s more to that story, he explains. As someone who worked his way through school, the affordability of state tuition could have landed him at Texas A&M just as easily as UT were it not for the unfortunate incident of the high school girlfriend who dumped him for the Corps of Cadets member with the shiny boots. Today he’s letting bygones be bygones.

“The Aggies have such good traditions and are strong alums,” says Campbell. “I hope they see fit to put a little ‘Baylor’ back somehow in at least a token way to preserve our heritage. But when fellow alumni say they don’t want to be part of the college’s alumni group if our heritage is not honored, I tell them as long as we treasure this dental institution we need to be bigger than a little name deal. We need to look for the greater good.”

Campbell and his longtime companion, Susan, will return to their ranch house in Huntsville but eventually plan to build a “barndominium” on his 70-acre family homeplace in Madisonville, Texas.

“I’m getting back to my roots and plan to garden, have vegetables and dogs, but I probably won’t have cattle anymore — but maybe a longhorn steer or two,” he says.

— Carolyn Cox