"What captured our hearts was not only the philosophy of the school and how it treats its students, but most importantly how the school treats its patients, particularly those in need."
In most real estate transactions in San Francisco, the buyers and sellers part ways after a few weeks or months, ending their brief relationship with a metaphorical handshake-never to cross paths again. But that's not the case with Melanie and Richard Lundquist, the former owners of the building that houses the new downtown campus at 155 Fifth Street. Richard's company, Continental Development Corporation, is a commercial real estate development and management company headquartered in El Segundo, California. The Lundquists are not only neighbors - they own the InterContinental San Francisco hotel next door - but also donors and philanthropists. What's more, "We're part of the Dugoni School of Dentistry family," says Richard Lundquist, "and it's a great feeling."
Although he had no intention of selling the building at 155 Fifth Street when the previous tenant moved out, Richard agreed to University of the Pacific's offer to buy the building for the new downtown campus. After touring the Stockton campus and meeting with President Eibeck as well as spending a significant amount of time with others associated with the University, "We found that we were really aligned with their vision and focus on providing a quality education," says Richard. "The University encompassed a wonderful group of people, from the president of the University to the dean to the alumni. We felt they were doing great things, and we wanted to be part of it."
Fast forward to a fundraising dinner for the dental school, hosted by Melanie and Richard, at their Southern California home. Though the couple had not discussed making a donation to the school, something clicked for them that night. "Everything was so heartfelt and inspiring," says Melanie. "Richard and I looked at each other from the two ends of the table and I whispered, 'Should we make a gift?' I read his lips and he said 'Yes' and smiled." That night, "this amazing couple made a starting gift of $1 million to the dental school," said Jeff Rhode, associate dean for Development, "and then thanked us for the opportunity."
The Lundquists' interest in helping communities thrive is also seen in the mission statement of the Continental Development Corporation, which aims "to develop and build projects of the highest quality and to actively support measures which contribute to the quality of life in the communities in which we do business."
Both Melanie and Richard are aligned in their philanthropy, and, knowing that Dugoni School students go out into the community and treat the underserved-many of whom cannot afford dental care-struck a chord with this couple. "What captured our hearts," says Melanie, "was not only the philosophy of the school and how it treats its students, but most importantly how the school treats its patients, particularly those in need." Richard adds, "Now they're going to be in a location that's so much more convenient for all those who are underserved to get quality dental care."
For instance, students and faculty members participate in service projects, such as providing free basic care and complex treatment to the homeless in partnership with San Francisco's Project Homeless Connect, several times a year. Dental students run a volunteer organization, Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE), dedicated to improving the oral health of all people in the community.
"One of the things I love is that the school wants to make sure they're creating not just great dentists-knowing how to place a crown or fill a cavity-but also helping to create caring and great human beings. Philosophically, they are where we are and we are where they are. And, I love the fact that the students are out there in the community serving the much less fortunate," she says.
The repurposing of 155 Fifth Street, from a data processing center to a dental school that is now able to serve more people in the Bay Area who need quality dental care, has made both Melanie and Richard very proud. "I think they've done an absolutely fabulous job redeveloping the building," says Richard. "And it will be a showplace in town. They have all the state-of-the-art technology that will attract students and attention to the University."
"We consider it a privilege when somebody does something so well that it gives us the opportunity to give back in a way that makes us proud. It allows us to help make a difference in people's lives," says Melanie. "The dental school has given us that opportunity, and we're very grateful. Most organizations are always thanking their donors, and that's very much appreciated. However, let me thank the Pacific Dugoni community for being who they are. We just do the easy part: writing a check. They're doing the heavy lifting. And Richard and I could not be more proud of the rebirth and repurposing of the building."
And on being members of the Dugoni School family? "Everyone openly embraces you and welcomes you to this family, and that shows you that they are deeply caring people," says Melanie. "We're not dentists and we really have no direct ties to the school, but we've been made to feel a real part of the family," adds Richard.