Alumnus Honors Alumna Wife with Gift to Student Support

To Herb Gabriel, DDS '43, UCSF was like a white-chalk starting line, and graduation, the blast of the pistol signaling the beginning of the race. He had met the love of his life, a nursing student named Betty, BS '43, two years prior, and had won a hard-fought spot in the orthodontics program. So Gabriel burst off the blocks in love, poised for a successful career, and in curious anticipation of what the draft into World War II would bring.

Yet those moments before graduation were quite tense. "When we finished our finals, each senior student had an appointment with the dean, one-on-one, to find out if we graduated," recalls Gabriel.

The conversation apparently went well. Gabriel, the newly minted DDS, married Betty just before he went off to serve in the US Army Air Force as a dental surgeon. After three years of service, the couple made their way to Oceanside, Calif., where they had three sons and Herb started his own orthodontics practice.

"Once I paid off all my dental equipment, Betty and I started giving back to UCSF," says Gabriel. "Things were difficult after the war and we knew some of the students could use the help."

To say that the sums grew over the years would be a vast understatement; the Gabriels' generosity has been monumental. His most recent gifts include $35,000 to establish an Orthodontic Resident Fellowship in the School of Dentistry. More extraordinary still is the gift he made in memory of Betty, who died in 2004 after 60 years of marriage. Searching for the proper way to honor her, he decided to support the students in the school and profession she loved. Last year Gabriel gave $250,000 to the School of Nursing for student scholarships, matching the gift UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and her husband, Nicholas Hellmann, MD, recently made to the campus.

The Hellmanns' $1 million gift was divided four ways between the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. The chancellor's generosity was motivated by the campus’s new four-year $100 million fundraising initiative, focused on new scholarships, fellowships, and innovations in teaching. Aimed at offsetting diminished state funding, it includes $80 million in new scholarships and $20 million for curriculum innovation, interprofessional education, and teaching facilities.

Gabriel is honored to be part of the effort.

Published for UCSF Insider, February 2013