Remembering French Moore

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I always enjoyed spending time with French Moore Jr. He one of our proudest and most distinguished alumni, and he was kind, brilliant, and compassionate, exactly the kind of person we enjoy spending time with. But more than that, and more to who French was, it reminded me of how deeply and how passionately someone can dedicate themselves to ensuring that others can have a better life, that they can be the very best versions of themselves.

French passed away earlier this week at age 88. He was a remarkable man to whom VCU owes so much. He grew up in King William County and in 1956 came to the Medical College of Virginia, now VCU, to study dentistry. He served his country in Korea then came back to Abingdon, VA, and served his neighbors as a dentist and advocate for more than four decades. He ran a dental practice and served on town council for 42 years, including 36 as mayor and vice mayor. French Moore Jr. Boulevard—also called Partnership Circle, appropriately—runs through downtown Abingdon and connects a college, a cultural center, and small business incubator, three passions that meant so much to French.

He graduated here in 1960 and he stayed connected to his alma mater. VCU remained important to him because he recognized that VCU helped make him, helped him become the dentist he wanted to be and—more importantly—the community member he wanted to be. He followed his father here:  French Moore Sr. graduated Dentistry in 1922 and engaged with his alma mater the rest of his life. French followed suit, and his son, a 1982 D.D.S alumnus, continued the family’s legacy as an adjunct faculty member and mentor for practicing students.

So meaningful was French’s support of and investment in his alma mater, Gov. Chuck Robb appointed him to the Board of Visitors in 1983. He served in that role for eight years, including three as rector, leading a time of great growth at our university. He also served his state and his profession on various boards, including as president of both the Virginia Board of Dentistry and Virginia Dental Association.

For his entire life, he loved VCU deeply and continued his service long after his time as rector ended. He earned both the Outstanding Dental Alumnus and Outstanding Alumnus Award from VCU Health, and in 2006 received the inaugural Medallion Award from the School of Dentistry. He also earned the Edward A. Wayne Medal for outstanding service to VCU, one of our most prestigious credentials reserved for a select few.

He cared deeply about the experience people had at VCU and committed his leadership and service to making it better and more equitable. After learning that one student needed extensive loans to complete his education, French rallied his Class of 1960 to start a scholarship endowment in the School of Dentistry that eventually grew to exceed all other reunion giving at the university combined, nearly $350,000. Notably, that record amount was finalized only in the elevator on the way to present the check, when French convinced a classmate to add in $75,000 more.

As student, as rector, and as mentor, French cared deeply for the people who comprise VCU and the people we serve, and he dedicated his life to giving them a nationally premier educational experience. I thought of him recently as I reviewed the School of Dentistry’s strategic plan, which focuses on improving our students’ educational experience, on rigorously innovating dental practice and oral health, and on making healthier the diverse communities around us. We do these things exceptionally well, and I’m proud of that. And I’m grateful that French Moore advanced these commitments for his entire life.

VCU will miss French, and we are forever grateful for his enormous impact.