Spring 2013

All Hands on Deck

To encourage young alumni to donate, Justin Altshuler, D46, issues second fundraising challenge

By Heather Stephenson

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Justin Altshuler, D46, on his boat in Florida. Photo: Brian Tietz

The call came at 6 a.m. Fire had broken out in the Boston building where Justin Altshuler, D46, operated his bustling dental practice. When Altshuler and his wife arrived at the scene, they found students from the apartments upstairs huddled in blankets provided by the Salvation Army. Snow covered the ground, and flames leapt from the upper windows.

Once the smoke cleared, at least some of the office was salvageable. The records, fortunately, were in fireproof containers. But the appointment book was ashes. “Who was coming in tomorrow?” Altshuler recalls wondering. “How could we call them?”

He and his wife, Bunny, who ran the office, got down to reclaiming—and ultimately redefining—their business. They quickly reconfigured the practice from a staff of 18 with five chairs for patients to just the two of them, a hygienist and two chairs.

Now an 89-year-old widower who lives in Tampa, Fla., Altshuler says the downsizing triggered an epiphany. “We went home the first calendar year with more net profit with the small situation, and I didn’t have to worry about the management of the enterprise,” he says. “Small was better.”

That kind of business insight, optimism and roll-up-your-sleeves effort has served Altshuler well. Born in Dorchester, Mass., he completed his undergraduate courses at what is now the University of Massachusetts in two years because of World War II and his Tufts dental degree in three. He married and served in the Air Force in Puerto Rico and Trinidad for two years before returning to Boston to practice dentistry with his father in Kenmore Square.

Eventually, he joined the faculty at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University as a clinical professor. Henry Goldman, the former dean for whom the school is named, invited him to teach students about business practice in the dental office, but “without mentioning money,” he says.

Money—earning it, managing it and giving it away—is a key theme for Altshuler. One of his two daughters, a son-in-law and his two grandchildren work in fundraising. “We were always brought up to be charitable,” he says.

He made a significant donation to Tufts University School of Dental Medicine last year in honor of his classmates. Understanding the need to boost leadership-level gifts—that is, donations of more than $1,000—he issued this challenge: If 300 alumni, parents or friends made a gift of $1,000 or more, he would donate $50,000.

The response was tremendous and the challenge a success: Nearly 400 alumni, parents and friends gave a record amount, more than $773,000, to the Tufts Dental Fund. More than half of those donors increased their gifts to $1,000 or more to meet the challenge.

Now Altshuler has issued a new challenge, this one for young alumni, designed to increase participation at any level of giving. With the GOLD Challenge (for graduates of the last decade), Altshuler will match dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000, gifts that alumni from the classes of 2002 to 2012 make to the Tufts Dental Fund before June 30, 2013. This time, his money will go to scholarships to help deserving students.

“The first challenge worked out,” Altshuler says. “I wanted to try something creative this time to assist even more young people in giving to Tufts.”

For more information about participating in the Altshuler GOLD Challenge, contact Maria Gove Tringale, senior director of dental development and alumni relations, at 617.636.2783 or maria.tringale@tufts.edu or visit bit.ly/altshulerchallenge.

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