2017 A. Gordon Archibald Award

The A. Gordon Archibald Award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves as dedicated Dalhousie volunteers. The award pays tribute to those who have made significant contributions to advancing Dalhousie by giving their time, talent and expertise.

Susan Keating-Bekkers, DipDH’91

By Mark Campbell

When Susan Keating-Bekkers heard that the future of a Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry program providing hands-on experience to students and treatment to Halifax Regional Municipality newcomers was in jeopardy due to lack of funding, she knew she had to take action.

“It seemed such a shame to cancel a great teaching clinic, especially one serving people who have never received oral health care,” Keating-Bekkers recalls. “I reached out to the dean and asked what it would take to keep this program in place, and we worked together to create an endowed fund that would support it.”

That fund, the Oral Health Care Initiatives for Nova Scotia Immigrants, is one of many ways that this dental hygienist and Faculty of Dentistry instructor is giving back to Dalhousie. Through her extensive volunteer work and financial gifts, Keating-Bekkers is playing a key role in enhancing the university’s educational experience, providing assistance to students in completing their studies and ensuring that marginalized communities throughout the municipality have full access to oral care. Her boundless enthusiasm, bold ideas and dedication to her alma mater have put smiles on the faces of faculty, students and patients alike, and have earned her the 2017 A. Gordon Archibald Award from the Dalhousie Alumni Association. The award recognizes volunteers for their service to the university.

Identifying a need

“Susan does not wait to be approached,” says Faculty of Dentistry professor Angela Nowe (DipDH ’94), who has known Keating-Bekkers for 15 years. “She identifies a need and then creates an opportunity to give back. Through her generosity, she has made a significant contribution both to the advancement of our university and the wider community.”

Keating-Bekkers’s contributions to the university began in 2012 with the Keating-Bekkers Award, a scholarship that provides financial assistance to Dental Hygiene students entering their second year of studies. The following year, she established a fund for the North End Community Health Clinic, which delivers dental services to disadvantaged community members in the municipality’s north end. In 2014, she launched the Oral Health Care Initiatives for Nova Scotia Immigrants Fund and followed that with the creation of the Oral Health Rehabilitation Fund, which gives students experience in treating extreme cases of pain and tooth loss. But there is one other contribution that you should be aware of: Keating-Bekkers works as a volunteer faculty instructor, which frees up more funds for education and treatment.

Susan Keating-Bekkers

2017 A. Gordon Archibald Award recipient Susan Keating-Bekkers (DipDH’91). Image: Danny Abriel.

“My goal is to provide dental care to as many people as possible,” Keating-Bekkers explains. “It’s an important part of our overall health, but there isn’t much support out there for people to access oral health if they don’t have money.

“Dalhousie has outreach programs and students that provide services to the community,” she continues. “It was crystal clear that if I supported the Faculty of Dentistry, it would have a significant impact for everyone. Students receive great learning experiences, people gain access to quality oral care and it improves the university’s dental program immensely. It’s a win-win-win.”

“Compassionate, caring and devoted”

Dr. Tom Boran, the former dean of the faculty, is delighted to see Keating-Bekkers’s service to Dalhousie recognized with the A. Gordon Archibald award. “I don’t know of anyone who is more compassionate, caring and devoted to ensuring our students receive the best oral health education grounded in giving back to our much-needed communities and always ensuring respect for the peoples we service.”

“I’m always thinking about helping others,” Keating-Bekkers explains. “My parents constantly encouraged me to think about how I can serve my community, so it’s pretty much in my blood. I think it’s in all of us. We can all give something. It doesn’t have to be money. It could be anything. I just know that when I give, my heart gets bigger and there is nothing that can compare with that feeling.”

Keating-Bekkers says it was a surprise and honour to receive the A. Gordon Archibald Award, and to read the letters of support that friends and colleagues submitted. “I was humbled. I’ve never done this for attention or limelight. But I can use opportunities like this to share my story and encourage others to do good things. If just one person is inspired to donate their time or money to the Faculty of Dentistry or anything that interests them, that would be great.”

For now, Keating-Bekkers is content to continue volunteering with the Faculty of Dentistry and adding to the funds she’s created to ensure they benefit professors, students and patients for years to come. But if an opportunity presents itself to do more, Keating-Bekkers is ready to step up.

“There is always a need for more programs and treatment, and there are ways to go beyond the funds and programs we have now. Dalhousie gave me the knowledge and skills to do what I do, so whatever I can do to support the university in delivering education and oral care, I’ll do it, because that makes me happy.”

Nominee requirements:

The award honours those who have significantly participated in a voluntary, non-salaried leadership role at Dalhousie. Secondary consideration is also given to individuals who contribute to the financial well-being of the university and/or encourage others to give.