Southside Business Leader: Dr. David Wolf

Backed by faith, Greenwood dentist Dr. David Wolf works to benefit the global family

Photo courtesy of Wolf Family Dentistry: Dr. David Wolf.

As a poverty-level youngster in Evansville, Ind., David Wolf worked for some of the wealthiest people in the city.

He said he used to think, “When I grow up, I just want a small portion of what they have.”

He began working for Helfrich Vending in the sixth grade. He cleaned and repaired parts and eventually drove a truck on company routes. He marvels that the owner trusted him to handle bank deposits of as much as $40,000 in loose coins and currency.

Wolf said he even drove a truck before he had a license. “It was a long time ago – a different world.”

Wolf’s father died when Wolf was in high school, and his mother supported four boys on her wages as a payroll supervisor for a factory. 

He couldn’t afford tuition to Catholic schools, but he was the beneficiary of donors. “I don’t know who the people were,” he said. He graduated from Mater Dei High School and attended Indiana State University at Evansville, now the University of Southern Indiana. 

During his undergraduate years, Wolf lived at home and continued working for the vendor. He also mowed lawns and painted and wallpapered. 

As an eighth-grader, he’d decided to study dentistry. “I liked working with my hands and I admired my dentist,” whom Wolf called easy-going, friendly, and involved in the community.

After college, the biology major completed his dental studies at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Along the way, he met Anne Klausmeier, a Purdue-educated chemical engineer who worked at Eli Lilly & Co. After they married, she continued at Lilly for 11 years until she remained at home with the children.

Wolf bought a fledgling dental practice that had about 150 patients, and when they moved to Greenwood, “I didn’t know a soul,” he said. By volunteering for many organizations, he enhanced the community’s awareness of his practice.

First attending St. Barnabas, he helped to found the church of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi to serve the expanding suburbs. At present, Wolf is on the board of directors of Roncalli High School and is instrumental in raising money.

When he reflects on the way he was helped as an impoverished youth, he expresses a need to give back.

“No Christ walks the earth now,” he said. “It’s up to each of us to fill those shoes.”

Later this month, he will leave for Romania for two weeks on his 12th dental mission sponsored by Remember the Children. The location is in western Romania across the border from Budapest.

He learned of the mission through an acquaintance who brought critically-ill children to the US for medical procedures that required a preliminary dental exam to rule out infections.

Over the years, Wolf has made “hit-or-miss” visits to state-run orphanages he describes as “military barracks” with rows of children in beds. The typical treatments are extractions to eliminate pain.

However, on each Romanian trip he visits Christian foster homes, where he’s able to implement preventive treatments and follow up on the next trip.

In addition, Wolf has gone on missions to Haiti and Ecuador. Stateside, his volunteer work includes seeing patients at the Wheeler Mission and the Gennesaret Clinic. 

In his role as a tube of toothpaste, Dr. David Wolf explains the functions of different teeth in the human jaw.

Wolf’s contribution to health education in school systems is perpetual. In May he visited Glenns Valley Elementary School to make a presentation assisted by a hygienist who works in his office. Dressed as a tube of toothpaste, he tells the children not to squeeze him because the toothpaste will come out of his ears.

Wolf uses a skull to describe the functions of different teeth in the human mouth. He also shows animal skulls and generates the most excitement with an alligator skull.

First, he asks the students what they think alligators like to eat, and the children suggest frogs and fish. And then Wolf says, “First-grade teachers.”

Despite what could be an unforgiving schedule, Wolf takes his family to South Carolina for vacations, where he “totally vegs out,” reading, riding his bike, and cooking fresh seafood. He said bringing in an associate for the office, Dr. Amanda Miller, has afforded him more free time.

His middle child, Joe, graduated recently from Notre Dame and will attend medical school. The youngest, Adam, is still at Roncalli, and the oldest, Andrea, recently married and teaches math and science.   

Getting to know David . . .

  • My favorite place to eat is my house.  We really don’t go out to eat that much. We entertain a lot. We just had the [touring] Notre Dame choir here. Sixty students came for dinner. We served grilled chicken, smoked salmon, and a vegan stew over rice.
  • I love watching basketball, especially IU and Notre Dame.

How did David do it?

BEST ADVICE:

Don’t be a procrastinator. Don’t waste a minute. Make every minute of your life count.

WORST ADVICE:

I used to work for somebody who said to be on time was a waste of time.

BEST BUSINESS DECISION:

To start a dental practice and then to add an associate. This allows me to travel on family vacations and mission trips.

SECRET TO SUCCESS:

Treat everyone like family. We have a fireplace in the waiting room so people feel at home.

My staff is outgoing and friendly.

IN 5 YEARS . . .

I’ll still be doing what I’m doing now. If I won the lottery, I’d still be here doing dentistry every day.

Wolf Family Dentistry
8920 Southpointe Dr., Ste. A-1
Indianapolis, IN 46227
(317) 881-8161