William D. Covington, D.D.S., MAGD Endowed Scholarship
This endowment was established in 2013 to encourage and honor a student with exceptional community service in the field of dentistry.
Bill Covington (D.D.S. ’62) is a soft-spoken gentleman with a gracious manner, professional ease and charming smile. To his wife Josée, he’s amazing.
“One of the things that is most extraordinary about Bill is that he’s not only given his funds to support the VCU School of Dentistry,” she says. “But he’s given up his time every single week for years. That’s pretty amazing.”
For more than five decades, Bill came back to the school to mentor students and see patients.
“The stimulus that students give you is just so unique. They’re always asking about things that you may not have considered, or looking at something with a different slant,” he says. “Contact with students gives you continuity. Expansion of your ideas. Expansion of your talents. So I guess we learn probably as much from students as they learn from us.”
An unexpected career choice
Bill’s entrée into the dental field came as a surprise. Growing up on a small farm in North Carolina, he learned early on that life isn’t easy. He and his family moved north to Virginia after tough circumstances led to the loss of the farm. He describes himself as growing up poor with no thought of becoming a professional at all let alone a dentist.
But the Air Force changed all that.
“At that time, the Korean War was dancing around and people were getting drafted. I knew I didn’t want to be in the Army, so I joined the Air Force and after an aptitude test I was put with the medics and became a dental assistant.”
His time in the medics also included time at MCV Hospital where he worked in the emergency and recovery rooms when Air Force casualties needed to be inspected. His roles were many – from nursing to pharmacy – but his interest and aptitude in dentistry won out.
Working his way through
He worked his way through dental school at a time when the VCU Dental Building 1 was brand new. Some classes were also held in Hunter Hall and McGuire. His class totaled about 80 students.
Memories of his dental school days in the late 50s and early 60s include being choked by a coat, affectionately known as the “Ben Casey” named for the popular television medical drama. The collar was stiff and tight when buttoned up. Casey wore his unbuttoned. Now we know why!
“We all had this tunic coat and I started to get a headache. I thought I must have needed glasses, but that didn’t help,” he says. “Well, I thought I better change the lighting, and that didn’t help either. Finally, I bought a new tunic that didn’t choke me to death. See what tradition will do?”
Planting the seed
His motivation to support the school, Bill says, comes from two strong sources. His upbringing. And Harry Lyons, dean of the school of dentistry from 1951 to 1970.
“I was poor. I worked all my life. All the way through school like many of my classmates. Dean Lyons suggested that each graduating student give $1,000 to the school at some point in our lives. He asked us to give back if we appreciated our education and the value of our time at the school. He planted the seed.”
From that seed grew a generous class gift presented by Bill and his classmates at their 50th Class Reunion in 2012.
That reunion set a fundraising record at the school and fulfilled Dean Lyons’ wishes for his former students to give back. It also presented Bill with an unexpected honor.
The ultimate surprise
To celebrate her husband’s 50th reunion, Josée was faced with a dilemma. She couldn’t be there and couldn’t let such a milestone come and go without fanfare and meaning.
If she couldn’t be there herself, others could mark the occasion for her. She made arrangements for their sons Paul and Denny and VCU President Michael Rao to attend the festivities in her place. And in the ultimate display of appreciation and caring, she created a scholarship in Bill’s name, which was announced by none other than Rodney the Ram.
“It was a jaw dropper,” Bill remembers.
Bill’s service to others spans more than a half century of compassionate care and student mentorship.
“I never dreamed I’d be in a professional world. I started out as a farmer and believe me, those people work very hard every day,” he says. “When Dad lost the farm, I didn’t have a direction in particular except just to graduate from high school. I’ll never forget all the people who helped me along the way. And I couldn’t have done anything without Josée.”
Bill and Josée Covington
- Financial need
- Second-, third- or fourth-year dental student in good standing
- Exceptional community service
- Stated preference for entering the General Practice of Dentistry
- Preference given to a Va. resident
Get to know our scholarship recipients
Click each name to find out what excites our students about becoming dental professionals.