Dr. Robert Fonda Dental Hygiene Scholarship Endowment

Dr. Robert Fonda Dental Hygiene Scholarship Endowment

After high school, Dr. Fonda graduated from the Kemper Military School in 1942, then from the University of Iowa in 1945, earning his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He was immediately ordered to duty as a Naval Dental Officer and when released in 1946, joined his father in his private dental practice in Rockwell City, Iowa. In 1952, he was recalled to military duty, again as Navy Dental Officer and was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. He was subsequently released from duty and returned to private practice with his father.

In 1969, after 23 years in private practice, Dr. Fonda decided he wanted to look at some other opportunities in the dental field. By chance, MSU was looking at starting a two-year dental hygiene program. After meeting with administrators, he was offered the job, accepted, and so began a new journey. Arriving on campus late 1969, he discovered there was no clinic for practical instruction, no staff, no office, no secretary, no books had been ordered, there was no serviceable equipment and no curriculum for the first classes scheduled to begin the following spring. So, starting from scratch, the program and curriculum were designed, accreditation for the program received from the ADA, staff hired and equipment purchased. As if that was not enough, he also spent a great deal of time supervising the construction of the new clinic in the basement of one of the upper campus buildings, with nothing more than a dirt floor when the project started. He served as Administrator, Director and as well, a clinical and classroom instructor.

Dr. Fonda retired in 1986, very delighted at the progress of the program he fathered and fiercely proud of its success. “It was a pleasure for me,” he says. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything." Because of his dedication and hard work, in 2012, the program enjoyed its 40th year anniversary reunion which he attended at the age of 90!

Dr. Fonda also found time to be involved in the community and was active in the Masonic Lodge, American Legion, Lions Club, Presbyterian Church, Meals on Wheels, Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Golden K Kiwanis. He also tutored English as a second language, taught AARP’s 55 Alive Senior Drivers classes, volunteered as a Friday Friend at Kennedy Elementary and Pages Past Bookstore at the MN Valley Public Library.

Dr. Fonda was a (gentle)man. His finest qualities were his love of family, his never ending patience, his love of teaching and dedication to the dental program and wanting to make a difference in the world of dentistry. Sadly, Dr. Fonda passed away May 18, 2014.


This Endowment isn’t yet fully funded, so scholarships aren’t currently being awarded. Once they are, it will support Dental Hygiene students. To be eligible for this scholarship, a student must:

  1. Be in, and remain in, good academic standing with the University and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  2. Be a second year student enrolled full-time in the Dental Hygiene program at Minnesota State Mankato,
  3. Demonstrate some level of financial need,
  4. Preference is given to students from rural areas of Minnesota or Iowa and/or who have expressed an interest in serving in rural areas once they complete their degree,
  5. Preference is given to students who demonstrate volunteerism within their community.