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UW School of Dentistry receives $2 million from late alumnus and wife

The University of Washington 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, Interim Dean Gary Chiodo has announced.

Dr. Spinola, who graduated from the school in 1956 and taught there for 45 years, passed away in January 2017. Carole Spinola passed away the preceding September. The couple had made their home in Kirkland, where Dr. 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 Dr. 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 Dean Chiodo. “Their gift will be transformational for our School of Dentistry.”

Dr. Spinola, who received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from the UW in 1952, taught endodontics to post-doctoral and pre-doctoral 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 pre-doctoral 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, Dr. Spinola was a general dentist in Kirkland, where his wife managed his practice before he retired in 2009. He served in the U.S. 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, Dr. Spinola left Hawaii to attend Seattle University. Within a month after starting school, he met fellow student Carole Delsman of Ferndale, Wash., the daughter of an oil distributor. The two were married in 1948, and Dr. Spinola later transferred to the UW to complete his undergraduate education and then attend dental school.

The Spinolas led a full, active life. They traveled the world, and kept a time share on the island of Maui. Dr. Spinola was a pilot who also owned a cabin cruiser, on which the couple cruised around Puget Sound and the San Juan islands and to Canada. Dr. Spinola was an avid swimmer, golfer, and tennis player, while Mrs. Spinola loved to ski.

The two “were savers, not spenders,” said longtime neighbor and close friend John Graham, a retired attorney. 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,” Dean Chiodo said. “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.”