Larry Napolitano, DDS ’84, considers himself a lucky man. His professional path has brought him joy and stability and enabled him and his wife Valerie to include generous charitable bequests in their estate plan and give back to the institutions that have helped them.
Growing up in Milpitas in a working class family, Larry expected to follow in his teamster father’s footsteps. Instead, inspired by his family’s dentist, Richard Cooley, DDS, he decided to pursue a career in dentistry.
“Although my parents didn’t emphasize education, self-actualization was a theme for my father,” he says. “Reaching my potential and being my own boss were important to me.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in biochemistry from San Jose State. By the time he arrived at the UCSF School of Dentistry, Larry was already married and had a young son. The schedule was “crushingly busy,” he says, but with Valerie’s support and sacrifice, he was able to take advantage of everything the school had to offer.
“I found the experience challenging, but the instructors and environment were exceptional,” Larry says. “I knew I was at the pinnacle of higher education.” As he was preparing to graduate, the dentist who shared offices with Dr. Cooley was leaving. Larry bought the practice and has now been in that location for 31 years.
In 1994 Larry once again turned to UCSF, when Valerie was diagnosed with oligodendroglioma—a low-grade brain tumor. She has received care at UCSF over the ensuing decades from neuro-oncologist Michael Prados, MD, Neurological Surgery Department Chair Mitchel Berger, MD, and others—and her tumor has been kept in check through periodic surgery.
In gratitude for this care and for the education that enabled Larry’s professional success, the Napolitanos have included bequests in their estate plan for dentistry and neuro-oncology programs at UCSF. Their School of Dentistry bequest will establish the Larry and Valerie Napolitano Endowed Fund for Oral Health Clinical Mastery.
Larry says he and Valerie have long planned to leave a bequest for UCSF. “With the many gifts I’ve been given, I’m happy to give back.”
“We aim to prepare our students for the real world of their profession and the highest standards of practice,” says John D. B. Featherstone, MSc, PhD, dean of UCSF School of Dentistry. “Generous gifts like the Napolitanos’ help us meet that goal and send a terrific message to our students that our graduates support them.”
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