Winnebagos bring dental alumni together

Dr. Zachary Hairston keeps his Winnebago and dental chair close by at his practice in Danville, Va.
Dr. Zachary Hairston keeps his Winnebago and dental chair close by at his practice in Danville, Va.

“Winnebago” is not a word one often associates with dentistry, but mentioning it to a member of the School of Dentistry Class of 1983 surely will elicit hearty laughter.

Reunion and Alumni Weekend 2013 is just around the corner, and classes with graduating years ending in three and eight have been hard at work planning for the three-day event. During a preliminary planning discussion, some members of the Class of 1983 reminisced about the one thing that stuck out the most from their time at VCU – their Winnebagos. These were the specially made storage cabinets used to carry around all the instruments that a dental student would need.

“We carried everything in our Winnebagos,” shared Dr. B. Ellen Byrne (B.S. ’77, D.D.S. ’83, Ph.D. ‘91). “We purchased all our own instruments and our operator chair. Some classmates built their own Winnebagos, and many were passed down through the years. We took the rolling cabinets from clinic to clinic with everything we needed. It’s hilarious to think about today.”

Several Class of 1983 alumni still have their Winnebagos, including Dr. Zachary P. Hairston (D.D.S. ’83), who was excited to show his off along with his dental chair. “The phrase certainly evokes fond memories,” said Dr. Ross I. Heisman (D.D.S. ’83).

Now the class is building upon these fond memories to create the Class of 1983 Winnebago Student Scholarship. Today’s students may not be lugging around Winnebagos and dental chairs, but they do have other issues to contend with, including mounting student loans. Funds from the Class of 1983 scholarship will be used to provide annual awards to decrease the debt for students who intend to buy dental practices. To date, members of the class have raised more than $130,000 and counting to support deserving dental students.

Show us your Winnebago! Send us photos of your trusty Winnebago. New or old pictures are welcome and will be posted to the “VCU Dentistry” Facebook page. Don’t forget to “like” us!

To learn more about the Class of 1983 Winnebago Student Scholarship, please contact Gloria Callihan at or (804) 828-8101. For more information about Reunion and Alumni Weekend, visit

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