Ohio State Dental Journal

A Buckeye Family Legacy

David Bitonte, DO (left), and his older brother, Gary Bitonte, ’69 BS, ’73 MD, continued the work their late parents Dominic, ’47 DDS, and Helen Bitonte started when they gifted $2 million from their parent's estate to The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.

To hear the Bitonte brothers speak of their late parents, Dominic and Helen Bitonte, is to witness the love of family and community, along with a commitment to “giving back.” The Dominic and Helen Bitonte Foundation’s gift of $2 million to The Ohio State University College of Dentistry sets the stage for the college’s campaign to raise funds for a new facility. 

Dominic, ’47 DDS, and Helen Bitonte

“My parents valued education, and my father had a deep sense of gratitude to Ohio State for his long, rewarding career,” says Gary Bitonte, ’73 MD, the oldest son of Dominic and Helen. 

To honor the Bitonte family’s gift, the college is creating the Bitonte Society to recognize those who give $100,000 or more to support the building campaign. Bitonte Society members will be acknowledged publicly on a plaque in the lobby of the new facility, alongside bronze busts of Dominic and Helen. Society members will also be included in the college’s executive-level events. 

Patrick M. Lloyd, dean of the College of the Dentistry said, “Dentistry has evolved so much since Postle Hall was built in the early 1950s. The building has served us well, and now we’re ready for a new facility that will accommodate the latest technology in teaching and dental practice. This will allow the college to attract the best and brightest students and hire the most capable and experienced faculty. And we simply could not do this without the Bitonte family. They are now and always will be a part of our college’s history."

Dominic Bitonte earned his DDS degree from Ohio State while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, after which he went into practice. Several years later, he was called back to military service, this time in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict. Dominic and his older brother Robert C. Bitonte, ’44 DDS, maintained a dental practice in downtown Youngstown for more than 30 years. Dominic’s wife, Helen, strongly supported the practice and was part of the dental auxiliary. 

David Bitonte, DO, recalls his father’s commitment to staying abreast of the latest dental and research innovations even when he was well into his 80s. 

Dominic, Robert, and older brother Joseph Bitonte, ’38 BS, an engineering PhD, all attended Ohio State. These three sons of a steel worker and a seamstress attained the highest educational achievements in their respective fields. 

David Bitonte, DO, recalls his father’s commitment to staying abreast of the latest dental and research innovations even when he was well into his 80s. 

“My father was appointed by two governors to the Ohio State Dental Board, and he was a dental licensure examiner for the Northeast Regional Board for 29 years. He traveled from state to state to facilitate board exams for dental students. To earn this position, he took tests to make sure his knowledge was current. And it always was. He scored high on those tests because staying on top of the latest advances meant a lot to him. He was a lifelong learner,” says David. 

The Bitonte’s Buckeye legacy does not end with Gary and David. Gary’s daughter, Gina Bitonte, '15 DDS is a recent dental graduate of the College of Dentistry, and two of David’s children are also Ohio State alumni. Given the family’s longtime involvement with Ohio State, making the estate gift was an easy decision for the brothers.

“When our father passed away in 2014, and then our mother in 2015, they had already started the process of making a significant gift to the college. We knew our parents would have wanted us to see it through. That’s the kind of people they were. They were grateful for all they had and they believed it was their responsibility to pass that along to others,” says Gary. 

This gift is not the Bitonte family’s first to Ohio State. Dominic, Robert, and Joseph started the Bitonte Student Loan Fund to help students fund their tuition and other dental school expenses. 

“My father and my uncles all had to work their way through college, and it wasn’t easy, but it’s even harder for students to do this today,” says David. “I know my parents wanted to do what they could to help young people go to college and do their very best.” 

Gary recalls a time when he was home from college on a break and told his mother, Helen, that he was not sure if he wanted to go back. 

“’Go back, finish your education and make something of yourself,’ she told me. So I did. I listened to her because she knew how important an education would become in my life. And I’m glad I did, because she was right.”