Dr. Kandy Sayrs always had a soft spot for Carl Sandburg College, even though she got her degrees elsewhere. Even in retirement, the dentist would sit for teeth cleanings from students in Sandburg’s dental hygiene program at the downtown Galesburg location.

“She understood how hard it is for our students to find patients,” said Stacy Kosier, coordinator and assistant professor of the program. “I think she felt that was just something she could give back to her profession.”

Sayrs died March 20 at age 61 after a brief illness, but she found one last way to give back to the program. She left a $100,000 gift to the Carl Sandburg College Foundation that will be used for scholarships to support Sandburg students working to become licensed dental hygienists. Dan Bailey, Sayrs’ companion of 29 years, said the bequest is no surprise coming from a woman with her values. “She appreciated the fact that college is an expense that not everybody has money set aside for,” he said. “Anything she could do to lessen the burden on some of those students, she saw value in that.”

Sayrs developed a strong bond to Sandburg despite never attending the school. A 1978 Galesburg High School graduate, she got her bachelor’s degree from Knox College and went to dental school at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She opened her own practice in Galesburg in 1989, the first woman to do so. She took out space in the local newspaper to list the names of young patients in her No-Cavity Club and regularly visited area schools to give presentations on the importance of dental care and dental health. She brought along a dog puppet named Fritz and sewed real dentures into its mouth. As Sayrs’ practice continued to flourish, doubling in size from three chairs to six, Sandburg introduced its dental hygiene program. Sayrs immediately saw the value in it and became involved in its development. She then turned to the program as a pipeline for new employees.

“When Sandburg wanted to launch that program, she was definitely behind it, and it’s really enriched the area as far as having quality hygienists to pick from for people,” Bailey said. “She said, ‘We went from not being able to recruit a hygienist to now I have the pick of the lot of them.’ There were a lot of locals that went through the program. Everybody wanted to work for Dr. Kandy. It was a good problem for her to finally have a pool to choose from when it came to hygienists.”

“Dr. Kandy was a remarkably special person, and it was incredibly heartwarming to learn about the legacy gift she chose to leave through our Foundation,” chief advancement officer Eric Johnson said. “She was one of the biggest believers in Sandburg students and the dental hygiene program. Her gift has created an opportunity to lessen the cost barrier for current and future students who pursue a career in dental hygiene through an educational and immersive experience at Sandburg. We’re grateful, but we miss Kandy very much.”