School of Dentistry
Outstanding Dental Service Award
Charles J. Ritter, D.D.S., Arts ’49, Dent ’52
Robert P. Ritter, D.D.S., Dent ’79
Thomas J. Ritter, D.D.S., Dent ’82
Growing up, Charles and Nancy’s eight sons, including future dentists Thomas and Robert Ritter, thought it was perfectly normal to have parents who made regular trips to Haiti, using their medical skills to serve the poor. “We were raised,” says Thomas, “to assume that using one’s natural talents serving others was the way life worked.”
All of the Ritter boys traveled cross-country with their parents and witnessed their consistent example of service, which goes back generations in their family. Charles, a Milwaukee dentist, and Nancy, a nurse, volunteered on behalf of underserved populations both abroad and in their hometown.
Charles first visited Haiti during the regime of the dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and were deeply affected by the abject poverty they witnessed. They returned to Haiti multiple times to provide care to underserved citizens. Charles began by doing basic dental restorations in a Port-au-Prince hospital and eventually began treating patients living remotely in the mountains, without access to health care. To reach patients, Charles would ride as far up a mountain as possible with a driver, then switch to riding horseback.
Robert first traveled to Honduras in 1993 on a vacation and in support of a Notre Dame Sisters’ orphanage; while there, he was introduced to MEDICO, a humanitarian organization providing health care in Central America. He and his wife, Gayle, have been working through MEDICO for more than 25 years, more recently focusing on a vast remote jungle eastern region of Honduras called La Mosquitia that is accessible by dugout canoe or sometimes by roads. In this largely forgotten part of the world, their medical and dental brigades have made a measurable impact on the area to provide restorable care, preventive and emergency treatment, and basic health education.
Thomas has volunteered in Honduras, in Bosnia and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and for the past decade he has dedicated his service to the people of Haiti. He cares for patients and also has mentored and supported the staff and students at Haiti’s only dental school. He was one of the first responders to the Haitian earthquake.
Charles has retired and turned his Milwaukee practice over to Robert, while Thomas has a private dental practice in Towson, Md.
The Ritters have lived the Marquette mission with a sustained devotion to selfless voluntary service on behalf of others. “The Jesuits made it clear,” says Tom, "that success was to be measured by who and what you served, and not by what you have."
Fun facts: Charles and Nancy were instrumental in founding the Guadalupe Clinic to serve the Latino community on Milwaukee’s south side.
Thomas served as an adjunct professor at Marquette’s School of Dentistry before moving to the Baltimore area.
Robert has always looked back on his 11 fun- and friend-filled years of Jesuit education at Marquette University High School, Creighton University and Marquette University School of Dentistry with great fondness.