This article, written by Jaime Huss, was originally published in Pacific, July 2006.
Man on a Mission--Dennis Falk likes to push beyond the comfort zone
It was January of 1973, and Ken Isaak(BA '76) had just transferred to Fresno Pacific College from British Columbia's Simon Fraser University. Moving into student housing's Kriegbaum Hall, it wasn't long before Isaak met his neighbor and fellow Canadian Dennis Falk. Isaak was quick to notice his classmate's studiousness. "Dennis was a disciplined student," Isaak said. "He was here on a mission."
In coming to FPC, Falk was on a mission--a mission to venture out of the familiar. Raised on a farm six miles outside of Niverville, Manitoba, Falk was itching to explore. "Coming to Fresno Pacific was an act of rebellion with my parents' blessing," he said. "I just wanted to get away and to see another place."
Falk took the fast track with his studies at FPC, finishing his undergraduate education in three years. As focused as Falk was on his schoolwork, he also noticed something distinctive about FPC's atmosphere. "There was a prevailing attitude among faculty and staff. I was looked on as an individual, not a number," Falk said.
He graduated with a degree in natural science. "My education was well-rounded, and it was based on values," Falk said. "It gave me a better foundation for going on in my profession."
Falk followed his passion for medicine and the sciences, completed dentistry training at University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco, and returned to Fresno to establish his practice. But another mission was soon calling him to places far away from the Central Valley. A national dental convention more than 17 years ago sparked Falk's interest in taking his dentistry skills to some of the world's most needy.
Over the years, Falk has traveled with organizations like the Christian Dental Society and Rotary International to Honduras, Guatemala, Romania and Siberia. The one-to-two week stints Falk spends abroad each year focus on helping teach and further train local dentists. "We also work with local missions, supply them and help with dental clinics," he said.
While some may consider a one-to-two week mission trip short-term, the aftereffects of Falk's work have been far-reaching. Take for instance his first mission trip, spent in Guatemala. Though frustrated initially by the overwhelming needs around him, Falk met 14-year old Reyna, a young girl who helped serve as "gopher" during the group's dental projects. She dreamed of someday ministering to her people. Falk recognized this passion and responded.
Over the years, he's made it financially possible for Reyna to further her education and ultimately attend a university 50 miles from her hometown. Today, Reyna is fluent in English and continues to work with Falk on return mission trips to the region. Reyna is now married and the proud mother of a young boy. Falk proudly bears the title "honorary grandfather."
Back on the home front, Falk continues to respond to other missions. He has been an avid supporter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program, a national program that raises funds for leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma research. Since 1999, Falk has been active in the team's century (100 mile) cycling events and has helped train new team members.
And although not tied to track and field sports while a student at FPC, Falk took on the mission to build a new track, which was unveiled in 2001. He was the first major donor to the campaign, followed by numerous other supporters like Don Gregory, Dennis Anderson and Max and Charlotte Steinert.
Isaak, now the sports information director at Fresno Pacific University, vividly remembers meeting Falk at Fresno's Silver Dollar Hofbrau to ask for his support as the track's fund-raiser kicked off. "He really had no connection to the track. It made more sense for him to support something like the AIMS Hall of Mathematics and Science, but we needed a start," Isaak said.
No sooner had Isaak asked and Falk agreed. Mission accomplished. Falk quickly retorted, "Now let's visit."
"The world needs more Dennis Falks," Isaak said. "He understands that he was a beneficiary of education, now he's in a position to make a difference, and he does."