Give Marquette

Marquette University Alumni Association

School of Dentistry Award Recipients

Outstanding Dental Service Award

Robert KustraRobert P. Kustra, D.D.S., Dent '57
Franklin, Wis.

When Robert was young, his goal while attending St. Josaphat and Marquette University High School was to get an education leading to a career. After graduating with his dental degree, he dreamed bigger, inspired to work in private practice for 55 years and extend his care to those on society’s margins nationally and internationally.

“At that time,” he says, “I never thought about which direction I would take.”

Duty called after he finished his dental degree, and he headed to Germany with the Army, then returned to Oak Creek, Wis., to practice for 55 years. He retired in 2003.

In 1966, with 20 other dentists, Robert established the South Side Guadalupe Dental Clinic, a nonprofit that serves a mainly Hispanic population. The team saw patients at the clinic and in their private specialty practices. He continues to work there monthly and serves on its board of directors.

He also volunteered in global missions with various service organizations that took him to Appalachia and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Internationally, Robert worked in Guatemala, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Kosovo, Ukraine, Haiti, the Philippines and Romania. He also worked in Iraq, where he and his Christian team partnered with Muslim dentists, a unique experience of which he is extremely proud.

Robert also was a member of the Greater Milwaukee Dental Association, Wisconsin Dental Association, Trinity Study Club and Oak Creek Kiwanis Club. He also worked on the dental staff of what was then Trinity Hospital.

Fun Facts
Dream dinner date: Mother Teresa
Favorite faculty member: Rev. John McEvoy, S.J. He was available to all students as a mentor and counselor. He set up a small dining room in the basement of the school, where he provided meals, especially Thanksgiving dinner for all who were unable to return home for the holiday. Outside of the school, he was an advocate for the street people around the university. Notoriously, he was known to approach anyone with, "When was your last confession? Let me hear it now."
Favorite memory: In the Dental School, we were on a quarterly grading system, struggling to reach that point. We then rewarded ourselves each quarter with a class party.
Person most influential in my life: My Uncle Irwin. Among the many ideas and projects he tinkered with was an automated welding technique and the first electric blanket. He also studied to become a pilot in early 1940s. When World War II began, he was drafted into the Army Air Force. He was assigned to Air Transport Command, delivering supplies over the Himalayas. Post-war, he continued to teach others to fly, setting a record of teaching someone to fly in a 24-hour period.
Favorite book: Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway.