Alumni Profile: Willis Cardot (‘71)


March 25, 2019

Dr. Willis Cardot graduated Cathedral Prep in 1971. He has two older brothers who also went to Prep. Dr. Cardot has made a substantial impact on the Erie community by helping people of all ages with their smile and bite as an orthodontist.

Not only do orthodontists reposition the teeth but the facial features as well. Many people don’t know this about the orthodontist industry. He is currently an orthodontist at his office on 8th Street.

When asked about what made him want to become an orthodontist, he said, “I thought I was going to be a general dentist until I did my orthodontic rotation sophomore year [in 1979] at the University of Pennsylvania Dental School. It fascinated me that I could change someone’s bite, smile and facial appearance by the mechanics of moving teeth with braces [and also that] I could have a positive impact on someone’s life.”

Dr. Cardot has many favorite parts of his job. One is the monthly interactions with his clients. Since he does all the work, he’s with his patients for 10-15 minutes every month where they talk about anything. He also said that the day the braces come off is is second favorite part of his occupation. “It’s the culmination of two years of hard work and effort by myself and the patient,” he said. “When the patient looks in the mirror for the first time in two years without braces and sees themselves without braces. For me, it’s a moment of pride and accomplishment.”

When asked if there were any dislikes he had being an orthodontist, he said, “None. I would do it all over again, I wake up in the morning looking forward to my day in the office. I have a photo of my orthodontic class and instructors at the University of Buffalo Dental School hanging in my private office. Every day before I go out to my first patient in the morning, I look at that photo, thank Dr. Cunar (chairman of the orthodontic department) for accepting me [into the] orthodontic program. Then I thank God for my blessed career and life, and my wonderful wife, Mary, and daughter, Beth.

In his free time, Dr. Cardot like to do three things most of all. The first is being with his wife, who was his high school sweetheart from Villa. Secondly, he likes to walk the beach because it clears his mind. Third, he enjoys coaching basketball. He’s been coaching basketball at Our Lady’s Christian School/St. Jude since 1996. “I try to pass on the passion for the sport.”

He also had a story on how he chose to go to Cathedral Prep. “When I was 6-8 years old, my oldest brother, John, played football at Prep. During football games, the athletic director, Msgr. Gannon, would motion for me to come out of the stands at Veterans Stadium and stand with him on the sidelines. I was so excited. When my brother played basketball, I can still remember Msgr. Gannon coming out of his office in the athletic wing and giving me an old Prep basketball jersey that I never wanted to take off. I was hooked. From that moment on, all I ever wanted to do was play basketball for Prep. In my day, kids didn’t choose their high school, parents did. I was fortunate enough to have parents see the value in a Catholic education.”

From that moment on, Dr. Cardot knew he wanted to go to Prep. He made unforgettable memories at Prep as well. For him, it was winning the PCIAA State Basketball Title in 1971 and receiving, at an assembly, on the stage, the Gold Key in athletics from Msgr. McDonald. “To this day basketball is still my favorite sport. Nothing athletic beats the thrill of me personally putting or seeing somebody else put a basketball though a hoop.”

After going though high school and college, he shared some advice he would give to a student of Prep. “I was taught by my parents to be nice, treat others like you wanted to be treated. Do what you say you are going to do and to do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

Prep being the preparatory school it is, Dr. Cardot shared that Prep helped him throughout not only for his job but life as general. “Prep certainly prepared me academically,” he said. “It wasn’t until halfway though my third Calculus class at Pitt that I finally was taught something new. Thank you Sr. Ellen Denise! I use geometry I learned from Sr. Ellen Denise as an orthodontist all the time. I also learned hard work and discipline from Mr. Rolf Daeschner’s German class. Prep also reinforced the morals, values and ethics instilled by my parents.”

Dr. Cardot went to the University of Pittsburgh and played Division 1 basketball at Pitt for 2 years. He started and was the leading scorer on the freshman team back when freshmen were not allowed to play on varsity.

His favorite memory in college was playing during his sophomore year against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion when UCLA was on their famous 88-game winning streak and winning 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. He was fouled on an attempted layup by Bill Walton, and he made both free throws. After the game, he shook the hand of legendary Bruins head coach John Wooden.

On a personal note, Dr. Cardot is my orthodontist, which is why I chose to write about him. Every time I went there to get things done with my braces, we always talked about Prep and sports to name a few. Everyone I talked to that knew him always had something good to say about him, and I can see why. He is very talented at his occupation and is overall a great person to be around. If you need braces, I’d recommend going to him. He’s the best in the business, and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

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