Volume 4 | Issue 1
Spring 2012



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Linda and Bud Tarrson: Giving back the greatest gift to receive


By Claire Cusick

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Linda Tarrson pictured with a bust of the late E.B. “Bud” Tarrson in the lobby of the School of Dentistry’s Tarrson Hall

Photo by Dan Sears
Twenty-five years ago, someone spoke these words to Linda Tarrson:

“North Carolina is a class act. The people there will always be good stewards of your money. They will take care of you and Bud as part of their family. The University has such a stellar reputation, it’s one that you would want to be involved in.”

That was Harry Bohannan, now-retired research professor at the UNC School of Dentistry, encouraging Linda and her now-deceased husband, Bud, to get involved with UNC.

By the time of that conversation, E.B. “Bud” Tarrson, who died in 1999, had turned the John O. Butler Company, a Chicago-based maker of toothbrushes, dental floss and other oral hygiene products, into one of the world’s leaders in that industry. When they later sold the company, Bud and Linda were looking for ways to give back to the dental profession. Their friendship with Bohannan and John Stamm helped introduce them to UNC.

“We had a small foundation, and we would give out money to dental programs across the nation,” Linda said recently. “John Stamm, who was dean at the time, presented us with a plan to name the new building. We have always looked at it as an opportunity. You’re given a gift when someone gives you the chance to do something like that.”

And so the Tarrsons gave $2 million to the school in 1992 to help build Tarrson Hall, a clinical teaching facility that welcomes more than 100,000 patient visits each year. “We just connected, and we immediately felt part of the Carolina family,” Linda said.

“…even when I do go, students will walk down this sidewalk, important research will be conducted within these walls, future practitioners will hone their skills behind these doors, and, with any luck, your graduates will remember fondly the time they spent in Tarrson Hall. They will think well of their school and their patients and join me in giving something back. That will be my true gift to you.”

» Bud Tarrson


Tarrson Hall was dedicated in 1997, and a quote from Bud’s speech hangs on the wall in its lobby. In answer to the question, “Why did a toothbrush salesman from Illinois come to name this building?” he said:

“ … even when I do go, students will walk down this sidewalk, important research will be conducted within these walls, future practitioners will hone their skills behind these doors, and, with any luck, your graduates will remember fondly the time they spent in Tarrson Hall.

“They will think well of their school and their patients and join me in giving something back. That will be my true gift to you.”

Even after Bud died in 1999, Linda remained connected with UNC. “The friendships that we made together were good and solid, and they just continued for me,” she said. “That’s when you know that friendships are real indeed.”

Linda served on the Dental Foundation board, and endowed a merit-based scholarship in the Tarrson name during the Carolina First Campaign. “I chose to fund a merit scholarship because I wanted the student to have it because they earned it,” Linda said. “If they really needed the money, that’s great, and if they could just take pride in it, that’s great, too.”

In 2008, she was asked to serve on the University’s Board of Visitors, one of 160 friends of the University who assist the Board of Trustees and chancellor in a range of activities that help advance the University, including marketing, top-student recruitment, government relations and fundraising. She was appointed vice chair, and later, chair. Her four-year term ends in June.

“Serving on the Board of Visitors has been one of the real blessings of my life,” she said. “In every endeavor, it’s the people who make something worth it. That has been especially true at UNC. I hope it’s not too corny to say, but it’s enriched my life tremendously.

“I’m on many boards at different universities,” she continued. “There’s just a spirit, a marvelous spirit at UNC, and it’s contagious. Everyone here is generous, and everyone has a desire to give back.”