University of Washington Alumnus Leaves $2 Million to Its Dental School

Dentistry Today


The University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry has received a $2 million gift from the estate of Dr. Joseph Spinola, an alumnus and longtime faculty member, and his wife, Carole. 

Spinola, who graduated from the school in 1956 and taught there for 45 years, died in January 2017. His wife Carole died the preceding September. The couple lived in Kirkland, Washington, where Spinola practiced privately as a general dentist while teaching part time at the dental school. He retired from the faculty in 2001 as Clinical Associate Professor Emeritus. 

The Spinolas’ gift will be divided, with $500,000 directed to the school’s Department of Endodontics, where Spinola was an early member of the faculty. The remainder is unrestricted and will go to the school’s Campaign for Clinics, which seeks to upgrade clinical infrastructure, and to support the new Health Science Education Building. 

“The generosity of the Spinolas is humbling and sincerely appreciated,” said interim dean Gary Chiodo, DMD. “Their gift will be transformational for our School of Dentistry.”

Spinola, who received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from UW in 1952, taught endodontics to postdoctoral and predoctoral students at the School of Dentistry even before there was a department devoted to the specialty. As the department grew and matured, his teaching focus shifted back to general dentistry and predoctoral students.

“Joe was one of the good guys. He was honest, straightforward, and said what was on his mind,” said Dr. Gerald Harrington, a longtime colleague who directed the school’s Graduate Endodontics Program for 29 years. “He was devoted to the school and the department.” 

For several decades, Spinola was a general dentist in Kirkland, where his wife managed his practice before he retired in 2009. He also served in the US Army Air Force as a flight engineer from 1945 to 1946.

A native of Hawaii, he was descended from Portuguese immigrants who came to the islands in the 1880s from Madeira. Members of the family worked as “paniolos,” or cowboys, in Hawaii. After his military service, Spinola left Hawaii to attend Seattle University.

Within a month of starting school, Spinola met fellow student Carole Delsman of Ferndale, Washington, the daughter of an oil distributor. The two were married in 1948, and Spinola later transferred to UW to complete his undergraduate education and attend dental school.

The Spinolas “were savers, not spenders,” said longtime neighbor and friend John Graham. They invested wisely, including early purchases of Microsoft stock. Having no children, they left their entire estate to charity.

“It is so gratifying to have this level of support from our alumni,” said Chiodo. “These funds will be used for facilities and programs that will benefit our students and patients well into the future. I think that the Spinolas would be very pleased to see what their generosity will accomplish.”

Related Articles

Bicycle Helmets Reduce Facial Injuries

Study Questions Value of Fluoride Varnish

Reversible Dental Cement Debuts at Vancouver Dental Conference