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Esther Wilkins '38, Author of Definitive Dental Hygiene Text, Creates $100,000 Scholarship


Esther Wilkins '38 Visits with Stephanie Haskell '11 at the Simmons for the John Simmons Giving Society tea in November 2010

Esther Wilkins '38 Visits with Stephanie Haskell '11 at Simmons for the John Simmons Giving Society tea in November 2010

(January 13, 2011) -- Esther Wilkins '38 RDH, DMD, who turned 94 in December, owes the beginning of a long and illustrious career to Simmons. The science major, who still teaches at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, inadvertently wrote what would become the definitive textbook on dental hygiene. Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist started as Dr. Wilkins' attempt to coordinate and organize the classes she was teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle.

According to Dr. Wilkins, a publisher who happened to be visiting the university happened upon the binder with her notes and asked what it was. Upon seeing the content, he said, "We should publish this!"

Nine editions later, the textbook remains universally accepted as the definitive textbook for dental hygiene. In the meantime, Dr. Wilkins has enjoyed teaching careers at University of Washington and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and recently won a lifetime alumni achievement award from Tufts. She is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has designated its highest distinction the Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006 the City of Boston declared December 9 Esther M. Wilkins Day.

"All these things happened in my life because of my science background at Simmons," Dr. Wilkins said.

Dr. Wilkins's Simmons education was the result of incredibly careful planning and sacrifice. The commuter student took a walk, a train, and a subway to get to Simmons each day. With only one train a day to her hometown of Tyngsboro, she had to plan her busy academic schedule impeccably. Her last year, she was able to secure housing with a professor by offering housekeeping services. "I know a scholarship would have helped me," Dr. Wilkins said.

In this spirit, Dr. Wilkins has created the $100,000 Esther M. Wilkins Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is a two-part gift – Dr. Wilkins created a current use and an endowed portion of the scholarship so students could benefit immediately. "There are plenty of students who could use some help," she said. "Money counts."

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