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DCDS Community Leader of the Year

2012 Community Leader of the Year Award

Robert Bigham, Baylor Oral Health Foundation president and treasurer (right), with Dr. Hilton Israelson, received the 2012
Community Leader of the Year Award from the Dallas County Dental Society.

Photo courtesy Dallas County Dental Society

Back in the late ’80s, Bigham was ‘strong-armed’ into joining the dental school’s board of trustees. Two decades later, the banker-turned-BOHF president and treasurer considers his service to the college the highlight of his career.

Robert “Bob” Bigham, president and treasurer of the Baylor Oral Health Foundation, received the 2012 Community Leader of the Year Award for his 26 years of service to the college and community at a May 17 Dallas County Dental Society awards dinner. At the same event, Dr. Terry Watson, the foundation’s director, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dean Emeritus Dr. James S. Cole remembers going to visit Bigham when he was president of Promenade Bank in Richardson, Texas. Even then, Bigham was a staunch supporter of dentistry in the Dallas community, establishing programs for dentists’ various financial needs.

“I remember one time Dr. DePaola and I were going to visit with Mr. Bigham,” says Cole. “We told Noble Hurley, ‘We’re going to Richardson to visit with Mr. Bigham.’ Noble — then a BCD trustee and chairman of Swiss Avenue Bank — was so funny, and he had all these little sayings.

“But he got really serious and said, ‘I can tell you this: He’s a really smart banker.’”

Luckily for the dental school, since 2000, Bigham has applied his business smarts, trademark easygoing, Southern-grown demeanor and penchant for civic service to his role as BOHF president and treasurer. He was inducted into the Baylor College of Dentistry Hall of Fame in 2010 in recognition of his longtime service to the college as both a former trustee and foundation president.

In recent years, he’s been a facilitator in numerous projects benefiting the college and community, ranging from the addition of the Center for Maxillofacial Prosthodontics and Dental Simulation Laboratory to the construction of the new Sciences Building. Dental clinics for underserved children in the Vickery Meadow and Pleasant Grove areas of Dallas are the result of a partnership with Public Health Sciences Chair Dr. Dan Jones, The Crystal Charity Ball, Community Dental Care, Parkland Health and Hospital System, and the Dallas Independent School District.

Bigham considers himself a behind-the-scenes guy, joking about how his former banking career led to his initial role on the dental school’s board of trustees back in the late ’80s. The invitation came from none other than Hurley and Richard Hart, past chair of the college’s board of trustees. Incidentally, that governing body ceased to exist in 1996 when the college merged with the Texas A&M University System.

“That’s really how it all started. I got strong-armed by two of the best,” says Bigham. “It’s just been a highlight of my career to work with the foundation and the college in this role. It really has; I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”

The Bob Club

There’s a social circle that Robert Bigham, whether by association or default, was unofficially inducted into during his early days as Baylor Oral Health Foundation president.

“They called it the Bob Club,” Bigham says. “Everybody that had Saturday breakfast with them had to be either be named Bob — or be named Bob for the morning, anyway — including Dr. Cole.”

When asked about the Bob Club, Dean Emeritus Dr. James S. Cole recalls the eclectic mix of professionals and personalities: There was noted Dallas pediatrician Dr. Robert Kramer; longtime Dallas Morning News columnist Bob Miller; former chair of orthodontics Dr. Robert Gaylord; and of course, Bigham.

“It was trickier because my name was Jim, so I didn’t fit in as well,” Cole says. “It was fun to see what they all knew about Dallas through the years,” he adds.

The conversation was as varied as the individuals — and the locations — which kept changing as each restaurant choice shuttered its doors.

“We talked about the community, the dental school, the things that Dr. Gaylord had done and the projects that he was interested in,” says Bigham. “That was the breakfast of the Bob Club.”