George Willenborg, DDS '55: For the Greater Glory of God
It's been nearly 60 years since he's graduated from Saint Peter's University, and George Willenborg, DDS '55 still lives by the Jesuit principle of ad majorem dei gloriam. "I have kept this motto in the forefront of my thinking throughout my life — to do everything for the greater glory of God," he said.
Willenborg has lived a rich and active life. Yet his local roots run deep. Born and raised in Hoboken, N.J., Willenborg's father was a wholesale food importer of German and Swiss delicacies. He would often accompany his father to the Fritz Reuter Lifetime Community in North Bergen, N.J. — the retirement home where he currently lives — to make deliveries. Willenborg was also a parishioner at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Hoboken and attended its grammar school before enrolling into Saint Peter's Preparatory High School in Jersey City, where he played tackle on the football team under then coach the late Bill Cochran.
Willenborg went on to attend Saint Peter's College, where he majored in biology. "I was so indoctrinated in the Jesuit philosophy that the College was a natural choice for me," he said. He was involved in a number of activities during his collegiate career. He served as stage manager for Argus Eyes, then under the direction of the late director Roy Irving, and was also a member of the ROTC.
But it was his professors that had the most impact on Willenborg during his time at Saint Peter's. "The College taught me how to live and have a good life with a good moral and philosophical background," he said. "The professors taught me a lot more than dates and numbers."
For Willenborg, Rev. Joseph Schuh, S.J., a biology professor, was his spiritual guide and helped him all the way through college, and Fred Jacques '34, was not only his chemistry teacher, but also a good friend.
Willenborg credits these individuals with leading him to dental school. After graduating from Saint Peter's in 1955, he went on to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. for dentistry and graduated in 1959. In 1960, Willenborg went on active duty in the United States Army and served for five years after taking a Regular Army Commission. It was here that he met his wife, Joan, a captain in the U.S. Army, at an officer's club in Valley Forge. After dating for three months, the couple got engaged and married six months later, in 1961, in the Walter Reed Medical Center Chapel.
Willenborg left the Army in 1965 to establish a dental practice in Branchburg, N.J., where he purchased property and converted the garage into a two chair office. However, after an unfortunate accident that left him unable to practice dentistry, he sold the practice and began teaching at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, N.J. In 1975, he and Joan purchased a property in Cape Cod and designed and built a new home. Willenborg went on to teach at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where he focused on research in communication in dentistry and laser research — namely laser holography in medicine and dentistry — as part of the Center for Biomedical Communication from 1980-1990 before retiring.
Since his retirement, Willenborg has focused his interests on hobbies and crafts, such as creating Madonnas and other religious figures out of discarded altar candle wax, with donations benefiting local organizations. He also creates holiday decorations each season and donates them to the retirement home where he lives. "My most recent mission at Fritz Reuter is that I have taken up the practice of leading the Rosary on Saturday mornings in our chapel. I also offer Spiritual Communion, which is a tradition common to the Jesuits," Willenborg said.
In addition to using his crafts as a way to give back to the community, Willenborg also has several favorite charities which he supports, including Saint Peter's Prep, Catholic Charities USA and the Knights of Columbus. He has also provided for alma mater in his estate plans with a bequest in his will.
"Jody died in 2011. I spoke with my attorney about changing my will. I decided to provide for Saint Peter's in my estate plan because of what they had given me," Willenborg said. "I am also doing it out of loyalty because they were just wonderful years — very productive and enjoyable."
Willenborg encourages fellow alumni to make a similar gift, saying "It's a good idea and a very worthwhile use of your money."
And while Saint Peter's has changed much since his time as a student, there is one attribute Willenborg hopes will always remain the same: "My hope is that it remains loyal to its mission of ad majorem dei gloriam — for the greater glory of God."
Willenborg resides in North Bergen, N.J. He is one of five siblings: Helene lives in Upper Montclair, N.J. with her husband; Liz, a widow, lives in Brick, N.J.; and Paul is in North Carolina. His brother, Henry, is deceased.
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