Bison Philanthropy: Paying It Forward Through Giving

Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah (D.D.S. ’58), the man responsible for the smiles of such Hollywood stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Poitier and Muhammad Ali, has made it his commitment to bring smiles to the D.C. community.

Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah portrait

Over the last two years, Marwah has donated $250,000 to Howard’s School of Dentistry, with more to come. His goal is to provide funds for dental students’ education and to help set up a special dental clinic. He does this not because he sees it as a favor, but because he sees it as his duty to give back to the school that provided for him.

After a month at sea in 1953, Marwah arrived in America as a Fulbright Scholar with the Guggenheim Foundation to continue his studies in periodontics. He went on to receive his M.S. in oral pathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, but he still could not practice on his own.

“I could teach with my American and my Indian [qualifications],” he said, “but I could not practice dentistry. I had to have an American Doctor of Dental Surgery, and in those days there was hardly any possibility to do an American D.D.S. for a foreign graduate.”

And that is when Howard’s School of Dentistry accepted him as a student.

“Howard gave me the education,” he said. “It gave me the privilege and the credentials I needed to go into medicine in this country; without the Doctor of Dental Surgery from Howard, I couldn’t do that.”

During his time at Howard, Marwah was given a fellowship, where he taught in the afternoons as his schedule allowed and also did his clinical work. As part of his fellowship, he was required to complete his clinical work in four semesters; he finished in three, earning his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1958.

“It’s not a favor to any university that I give,” he said. “It’s a commitment. [Howard] gave me the education so I can stand on my own and make a living. And I did very well in this country.”

Marwah has been in the United States for 66 years and practiced for close to 50, raising three daughters and teaching at the University of Illinois and the University of Southern California in the process. He served as a city commissioner in Los Angeles for 18 years and helped to establish the Hollywood Sikh temple in 1969—the first Sikh temple in Los Angeles; earlier this year, on his 93d birthday, he was recognized with a street naming at the location of the temple.

Despite all that he’s given, Marwah has no plans on slowing down. Outside of Howard, he has given a quarter of a million dollars to the University of Illinois and created a fellowship for the institution. Through his Sharing, Caring and Services Foundation, he works to educate the poor in India and provide training at health facilities, villages and school systems there. And while he has already given the Howard School of Dentistry $250,000, he has committed to donating an additional $250,000 within the next several months. For Marwah, the true purpose of the donation is to serve students and the people of the community.

On the lasting impact of his donation, Marwah said: “My donation to Howard is going to help people—the underprivileged who can’t afford [care]—so that they’ll have health facilities to access. That’s where my donation to Howard will go.”

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