Fundraising for the future
Q&A with Melissa Ogden, TAMBCD’s director of development
This Dallas native started her career in New Orleans at her own alma mater, Tulane University. Schlepping hundreds of pounds of crawfish on her cross-country flights as alumni affairs coordinator just came with the territory. The crawfish boils that resulted — much to the delight of Tulane’s Cajun-cooking deprived constituents — were well worth the effort, despite the logistical obstacles.
The transition from alumni affairs to fundraising was a logical one for Melissa Ogden, Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s new director of development. She has worked in a fundraising capacity for Tulane and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center medical school, and, following an evacuation from New Orleans in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, for St. John’s Episcopal School and Methodist Dallas Medical Center.
This isn’t Ogden’s first foray into the dental field, per se. Her father, the late Dr. Dee Ogden, graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1956. Her high school summers were spent answering the phone, scheduling appointments and developing X-rays at his Lovers Lane practice, a quaint little house that had been converted into a two-operatory dental office.
“My mom ran my dad’s office for years, and so many of the patients became like friends, because they had them for a long time,” says Ogden. “They would go to weddings of their patients’ kids, and to patients’ funerals when they died.”
The fall 2015 launch of Texas A&M University’s Lead by Example comprehensive campaign paved the way for TAMBCD to create a development position through the Texas A&M Foundation solely devoted to raising funds to help advance the Dallas dental school. Ogden’s life leading up to this point positions her uniquely for this role, as the veteran development professional is not just the daughter of a TAMBCD alum but the mother of a Texas A&M senior. Below, she shares more on her experiences with dentistry, what motivates people to give and what she hopes to accomplish through this multi-year campaign.
NewsStand: What did you learn about the dental field through your father?
Ogden: I learned that dentistry is a physically demanding profession. My dad was on his feet all day; he had his arms up, which made me appreciate the fine motor skills you must have. I also have an appreciation for how critical oral health is to your overall health. I am not sure if that was understood as well in my dad’s day as it is now. In my time working with medical organizations, we seem to have a better understanding of how we’re all connected.
NewsStand: This is a unique position, working directly for the A&M Foundation specifically to raise dollars for TAMBCD. What do you hope to see happen for the college through your work here?
Ogden: To bring in additional resources to make an already excellent school even better; to have access to the finest researchers, the best clinicians — we have them now — but to be able to continue to have them in the future. Private philanthropy is becoming more and more important. I would love it if every chairman’s position was supported through an endowment, if we added more endowed professorships, if we had an enormous endowment for the school. Immediate goals are to raise funds for a new building.
NewsStand: How will you facilitate donor giving through both the Texas A&M Foundation and Baylor Oral Health Foundation to benefit the college?
Ogden: We can use both foundations in the way that is appropriate for that particular donor. At the end of the day, that’s why people give money; it’s because they are passionate about something. People want to give to things that they perceive are successful. They want to back a winner.
NewsStand: You are in a unique circumstance to serve in this capacity. On the one hand, you are physically here at TAMBCD, the very school where your father got his professional start. On the other hand, you step foot on the A&M campus often, not just to meet with colleagues at the A&M Foundation, but to see someone else near and dear to your heart, your son, Ryan Edwards, a senior at A&M. So with these experiences in mind, what is your perspective on the interplay between the Texas A&M system and the TAMBCD family?
Ogden: Obviously both of those names represent outstanding institutions. We are not part of Baylor University anymore, but Baylor College of Dentistry is respected around the world as a fantastic dental school, and A&M is respected around the world as a fantastic school.
They have long and storied histories of their own, but at the end of the day what is important to me is ‘What do we do here every day?’ We turn out some of the finest researchers and clinicians in the world, and we provide outstanding care to underserved communities and individuals. That’s what I’m passionate about, and that’s what I’m here to support.