Smiles we remember

Dr. Bettye Whiteaker
November 18th, 2020
Dr. James S. Cole, dean, presents the Hall of Fame award to Dr. Bettye Whiteaker.

Dr. Bettye Whiteaker accepted the Hall of Fame award from Dr. James Cole in 2005. The alumna leaves a solid legacy.

Dr. Bettye Whiteaker ’68, ’70 (Perio) was an esteemed alumna who left an indelible mark on the periodontics graduate program at Texas A&M College of Dentistry, distinguishing herself as an alumni leader and steadfast supporter of clinical care and professional education in her specialty.

She received the Hall of Fame Award, the college’s highest honor, at its January 2005 centennial gala, where she was inducted alongside then-dean Dr. James S. Cole ’75. Known for her caring nature and giving spirit, she died Aug. 29 at age 87 in Newbern, Tennessee. Memorial services were held in Newbern and Dallas earlier this fall.

Whiteaker positively influenced many future periodontists, including those who received the Bettye M. Whiteaker, D.D.S., M.S.D. Endowed Scholarship in Periodontics as graduate students at the College of Dentistry. Her own experience as a scholarship recipient motivated her to help students, also prompting her to establish scholarships at Dallas Baptist University and Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Her 2012 gift to the Baylor Oral Health Foundation helped established the Terry Rees Fellowship in Stomatology/Periodontics, named after the 1968 periodontics alumnus, former periodontics department head and Stomatology Center founding director. Significant support from additional donors, including matching funds from Texas A&M University, later led to the creation of the Dr. Terry Rees Endowed Chair in Stomatology upon Rees’ retirement in 2017, promoting the advancement of patient care, education and research into rare and debilitating problems of the mouth.

“Bettye was very concerned with the well-being of students, friends and everybody else,” Dr. Terry Rees says. “She was a wonderful human being.”

Whiteaker served as president of the Dallas County Dental Society and was a member of both the Baylor College of Dentistry board of trustees and the Baylor Oral Health Foundation board of directors. She was the first woman to earn the Gold Medal for highest scholastic achievement upon her graduation from dental school, later serving as president of the college’s Alumni Association. In 1993, she received the association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Paul Anderson, then assistant dean for development, alumni and public relations at the dental school, persuaded her to jump into alumni leadership, and their friendship continued until her passing.

“Bettye was just a great person; very giving, cordial and friendly,” he says.

— Carolyn Cox