Father Knows Best

Russi Gheewalla’s sons start a scholarship to honor his work in orthodontics.

Russi Gheewalla (center) with sons Rob (left) and Eric.

Eric Gheewalla, A87, D91, DG93, A21P, learned most of what he knows about life—and orthodontics—from one man, a professor at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine. “He was very well-regarded for his clinical expertise and being able to treat any case,” Gheewalla said. “He was a perfectionist and always wanted you to look at every case and do the most you could.” That now-retired orthodontics professor is his father, Russi.

An orthodontist at The Medford Center for Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, Eric—together with his brother, Rob, A89, A18P—are honoring their father’s 50-plus years at the school by establishing a scholarship in the names of Russi and their mother: the Edith and Russi K. Gheewalla D.M.D., D64, DG58, DG61 Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“It was important for us to establish something in my father’s name because he gave so much to the orthodontic program,” said Eric, who also taught at the dental school and has participated in Tufts’ orthodontic, dental, and undergraduate alumni associations. To inspire others influenced by their father, the Gheewalla family will match donations made to the fund through February 28, 2019.

Rob, who is a private investor and is on the university’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Advisors at the School of Arts and Sciences, remembers his father’s international students attending Thanksgiving dinner with the Gheewalla family every year. “It really showed me how much he cared about his students,” he said. “He inspired me with the notion you could find something you loved to do that much.”

Russi studied dentistry in Bombay, India, before immigrating to the United States, where he met Edith and studied orthodontics at Tufts. He went on to become a professor of orthodontics, clinical director of the postgraduate orthodontics clinic, and chair of school committees on advanced education and faculty appointments. He was also chief orthodontist for the Cleft Palate Clinic at Tufts Medical Center for decades, and taught postgraduate courses in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. He retired in 2007 as a professor emeritus.

Russi has one philosophy: Love what you do. “If you’re an artist, you should be proud to sign your painting. That’s the way to do work in the mouth,” he said. It’s also the way one should teach, he added. “I enjoyed having a good rapport with the students. If you respect them, they respect you.” He has received numerous awards from the school, including the Provost’s Award for outstanding teaching and service, as well as the 2008 Frederick M. Moynihan Memorial Award, for outstanding contributions to the field, from the Massachusetts Association of Orthodontists.

Russi didn’t push Eric toward dentistry—“what my sons want is fine with me, as long as they’re happy”—but was delighted when Eric was accepted into Tufts’ competitive orthodontics program. When he learned of the scholarships his sons had established, his reaction was the same. “I appreciate what they did for me, and I’m proud of them,” he said. “The most important thing is that not only people from the United States can get the scholarship. Dentists and orthodontists from all over the world should be able to graduate.”

With the costs of dental school and orthodontics residency rising, it’s important to give students a hand, Eric said. Rob said he hopes the scholarship will ease the burden, while also honoring their father. “I hope it helps to recognize the contribution he made to the school,” Rob said, “and to keep us connected, now that he no longer works there.” n   

For more information on the scholarship fund, contact Betty Ann Kearney at 617-636-2783 or elizabeth.kearney@tufts.edu.