“I want to pay it forward,” says Kathleen Burr, DMD ’85, an avid orthodontist and horsewoman.
Dr. Burr and her spouse, Robin Malkasian, will be paying it forward to students who follow in Dr. Burr’s footsteps to the UConn School of Dental Medicine, a national leader. Upon Dr. Burr’s retirement from private practice this year, the couple pledged an estimated $2 million estate gift—the largest gift ever committed to the School of Dental Medicine.
“Hopefully when the gift is made, it will be even more,” says Dr. Burr. “We chose UConn because it’s one of the best in the country. Under Dean Monty MacNeil the school is positioned to remain one of the best.”
Dr. Burr wants the gift to be used to recruit and retain promising students regardless of their financial means. The cost of dental school plus specialty programs discourages some highly qualified students from pursuing their aspirations. Alumni gifts can make a difference.
“I came from a lower middle class household, and I was able to access an excellent dental education at UConn and specialty training at Harvard because I received student support,” says Dr. Burr. “It’s important for us in the profession to pay it forward to the next generation.”
Dr. Burr graduated from the UConn School of Dental Medicine in 1985 followed by Harvard’s orthodontics program in 1989. She taught residents in the orthodontic program at Albert Einstein Medical Center for two years before opening her own practice in South Windsor in 1991. While Dr. Burr built a thriving practice, she and Malkasian settled in Hebron on their 12-acre horse farm.
“Kate is a very loyal alumna, and her gift signifies the great respect she holds for the education she received at the School of Dental Medicine and the advantages it gave her as she pursued her career in dentistry,” says Dean Monty MacNeil, DDS, MDentSc. “She is a wonderful example for what alumni can do to both honor their school and to help future dental students realize their dreams.”
Philanthropy is the key to realizing dreams because it reduces student loan debt, which not only lowers the cost of education but also opens more doors after graduation.
“Young graduates with high debt loads have to make decisions based on their debt. When you think about their debt load, they really are limited. It affects their ability to go into a specialty program, the model of practice they choose and the community they serve,” she says.
Dr. Burr wants UConn students to have the same opportunities she had to achieve personal and professional success. “Orthodontics is a wonderful specialty. The age group I work with is 11 to 14 year olds. They’re so much fun to work with and the day is fast-paced. We laugh and sing songs in the office. I was fortunate to have been a part of the best profession imaginable. I enjoyed going to work every day,” she says.
Settling into retirement, Dr. Burr plans to continue contributing to the dental field through volunteer work, volunteering for non-dental organizations she’s passionate about, and focusing on her horses.