Eastern Mennonite University

2009 Distinguished Service Award

Dentist Beloved at MCV

J. Robert Eshleman, EMU class of 1956

J. Robert Eshleman, EMU class of 1956, the winner of EMU's "distinguished service award" for 2009

J. Robert Eshleman, EMU class of 1956, the winner of EMU's "distinguished service award" for 2009, didn't actually graduate from EMU. After just three years of studying, leavened with the hobby of ham radio, Eshleman left EMU in 1956 when he was accepted early into dental school at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV).

"When I got to dental school I was very insecure among all of these guys with degrees from large universities. I asked Rosalie Hartman if she would still marry me if I flunked out of dental school. She said, 'Yes, but you won't flunk out.'" Eshleman worked so hard that he finished the year number one in his class. The summer of 1957 he and Rosalie, a graduate of the nursing school at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, married.

From his days as a fearful student (and earlier days as a college "dropout," when he took a year off from EMC to labor in the Shenk Chicken Hatchery - an experience which motivated him to return to college), Eshleman rose to chair of the restorative dentistry department from 1983 to 1992.

Today he is in his 50th year of teaching at MCV, where his advice and counsel is sought by clinical students who saw that he received the Lifetime Service Award for "outstanding dedication and student support." He has done research in bonded fixed bridgework, published articles in the dental literature on a wide variety of subjects, given numerous continuing education courses, and volunteered clinical time, including taking a dental mission trip to Guyana.

In 2006 he received MCV's Dr. James H. Revere's Outstanding Service Award. The next year he was elected to MCV's Medallion Society, "the highest honor the School of Dentistry bestows on its friends and alumni," according to an MCV statement.

Bob and Rosalie are the parents of Curtis (UVA '83 & '94) and Lee (EMU class of 1986), who is deceased.