UMKC School of Dentistry class scholarship memorializes classmate  

The Ji Blanchfield Memorial Scholarship is expected to be awarded to a second-year dental student next fall


Dec. 16, 2015

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry’s class of 2014 has established an endowed scholarship to honor Ji Blanchfield, a classmate who died four years ago while she was in her second year of dental school.

The Class of 2014 Ji Blanchfield Memorial Scholarship, which will likely be awarded for the first time next fall, will be available to second-year dental students in the top 25 percent of their class who are involved in a student organization or as a class officer.

Marsha Pyle, dean of the School of Dentistry, said the scholarship gift leaves an important legacy for the class of 2014 and for Ji Blanchfield, who died of colon cancer in December of 2011, soon after being diagnosed.

“The compassion and support that the class of 2014 gave to Ji and her family touched everyone at the school,” Pyle said. “Although Ji’s time at the school was shortened by her illness, the impact she left encouraged the hope and aspirations of all the lives she touched.”

Graduating dental school classes typically set up a fund through the Roy J. Rinehart Memorial Foundation at the School of Dentistry in hopes of establishing a class scholarship. But for the fund to make a distribution — or actually award a scholarship — it must be endowed, which requires a $10,000 investment.

Typically, getting to that level takes years, even decades, said Hilary Wheat, director of major gifts with the School of Dentistry. The class of 2014 fund reached endowment only four years after it was established and only a year after graduation.

Andrew R. Bruening, a 2014 class member who helped organize the fund, said that he and his classmates wanted to do something to honor and remember Blanchfield, a native of Thailand who had always dreamed of becoming a dentist.

”Really, we were just trying to figure out a way to carry on her legacy at the school,” said Bruening, who now has his own dental practice in Chesterfield, Missouri. “We wanted a way to honor her.”

Bruening said at least half the class contributed to the scholarship fund. They hope the scholarship will be awarded to someone who is “just as passionate about dentistry as Ji was.”

“And we hope it will ease the load just a little,” Bruening said.