Emeritus DDS Class of 1972 headlines school’s annual Reunion Weekend11 min read
Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 15, 2022 – The School of Dentistry’s DDS Class of 1972 – and one master’s degree alumnus from that year – celebrated their 50th anniversary during the school’s annual Reunion Weekend last Thursday through Saturday.
Thirty members of the DDS class returned for a weekend of memories and reminiscing about their time at the dental school from 1968-72. Their four years at the school were split between the old dental school building and then a move to the current “new” building that was completed in 1971.
Each class member was presented with a University of Michigan emeritus pin and personalized School of Dentistry emeritus medallion during a ceremony held at the Michigan League on Thursday morning. It was followed by a luncheon at which the school held its annual Hall of Honor induction and presentation of the Distinguished Service Award.
Interim Dean Jan Hu presented a summary of the school’s departments, recent developments and history for the alumni. “As we present our awards today – the Hall of Honor and the Distinguished Service Award – we acknowledge the high-achievers who make this school truly special,” she said. “It is important for us as a School of Dentistry community to honor the legacy of our world-class enterprise that has been training dentists for 147 years. Our collective experiences make us strong – both as individuals and as a dental school. The high quality of our students and faculty throughout the history of this school is truly remarkable.”
“Every student and every professor who came through this school helped build and maintain the culture of excellence that continues to this day. That includes each of our alumni here today,” Hu told the alumni who returned for the weekend.
Hall of Honor Award
The Hall of Honor Award is presented posthumously by the school’s Alumni Society Board of Governors to recognize and honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of dentistry. Nominees must be a graduate of the DDS, Dental Hygiene, MS or PhD programs, a faculty member or a research staff member. Since the Hall of Honor was created in 2003, 53 people have been honored with a plaque in a hallway at the school.
This year’s honoree is Dr. Gloria Kerry, who received her DDS in 1956 and her MS in periodontics in 1966. She was a trailblazer for women in dentistry and academia. She balanced practicing dentistry and raising a family with teaching, research and mentoring at the dental school during an era when women were rarely either dentists or professors.
After graduating with her DDS (one of only two women in the 1956 class), she practiced for several years with her father, a dentist in Detroit, then returned to the dental school for her master’s in periodontology. Her skills, experience and impressive research earned her an offer to join the faculty, but she declined because she was in the midst of raising five young children. In 1974, when all her children reached school-age, she returned as a faculty member and started a practice in Ann Arbor the following year. She continued to publish numerous studies and her credits include a prestigious Clinical Research Award from the American Academy of Periodontology for her role with Sigurd Ramfjord in a five-year study of surgical and non-surgical treatment of periodontal disease. She held numerous leadership positions in dentistry and other organizations, often as the first women to do so.
Dr. Kerry retired from the faculty in 1989, returned to her Ann Arbor practice full-time and continued to see her beloved patients until only a few weeks before her death in January 2019. Two of her children, daughters Karen and Julie (both U-M DDS 1985), and granddaughters Kelly and Taylor Chick (both U-M DDS 2022), followed Gloria into the profession of dentistry, extending the family tradition to four generations.
Dr. James McNamara, professor emeritus of orthodontics who was asked by Dr. Kerry’s family to speak at the induction, knew her for 40 years personally and professionally. McNamara said he often referred his patients to Kerry, particularly those with temporomandibular disorders, even though she was a periodontist. His last referral was only a few months before Kerry died, while she was still seeing patients in early late 80s. “I sent her a patient because I really felt that she was a person who could give me some insight into how this patient would be best treated,” he said.
McNamara also praised Kerry’s wide impact as a role model for women wanting to combine a professional career while raising a family. “She was a great motivator, even encouraging her dental hygienists and assistants to consider attending dental school themselves,” he noted.
Dr. Karen Kerry, who carries on the Kerry family practice in Ann Arbor with her two daughters, said her mother cared deeply about her patients, many of whom became her friends after years of treating them. “She loved dentistry. She lived and breathed dentistry,” Kerry said. “Our whole family is so super-proud of her. She ran the periodontal practice as an extension of her family, her beautiful smile, warmth and compassion touching all those around her.”
Distinguished Service Award
The School of Dentistry Board of Governors Distinguished Service Award was created to give appropriate recognition and honor to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of dentistry. Nominees must be graduates of the school’s DDS, Dental Hygiene, Master’s or PhD programs; a faculty member; or a research staff member.
The 2022 recipient is M.H. “Reggie” VanderVeen of Grand Rapids, who earned his DDS at the School of Dentistry in 1976. It would be difficult to find a resume with more service to the profession of dentistry than the one that Dr. VanderVeen has lived out over the last 45 years. His resume is a lengthy list of activities and leadership positions for local, state and national dentistry organizations, with a particular emphasis in the areas of accreditation and professional ethics.
His service started early in his 30 years of practicing in the Grand Rapids area and continued after his retirement in 2008. Even in retirement, with some not-so-subtle prompting from his wife Gayle, he spent seven years as a consultant to Michigan dentists, offering up his career-acquired wisdom about buying and selling practices, practice management and retirement.
His longstanding service commitment includes numerous Michigan Dental Association committees; four years on the Michigan State Board of Dentistry; American Dental Association commissions related to accreditation and examinations; the American Board of Dental Examiners (ADEX); the Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners; president and numerous other offices and committees for the West Michigan District Dental Society; membership in the American and International Colleges of Dentists; and community service for his church, Cub Scouts, the Kent County Community AIDS Council, and as a founding member of Clinica Santa Maria, a Hispanic population dental clinic.
Reggie and Gayle have been loyal supporters of the School of Dentistry for many years, with both time and financial gifts. Reggie has served several terms on the school’s Alumni Society Board of Governors, as chair from 2013-14, and was a committee member for the school’s last two campus fundraising campaigns. He has returned to lecture in dental school classes on various topics, including ethics, and to mentor students.
A nominator for this award summed up Dr. VanderVeen this way: “It is widely agreed that Reggie is brilliant, outspoken, loud, fun, caring and friendly.” When Reggie won the prestigious Silent Bell Award from the West Michigan District Dental Society in 2008, he was described as “A Man of Vision, Action and Caring.” Another nominator recently cited Reggie’s “keen intellect and tenacity” as he participated in countless long meetings for many different professional organizations.” The sum of his work, the nominator said, is that “No one can dispute his commitment to the maintenance of our profession or to the quality of dental education at University of Michigan.”
VanderVeen’s two children, Gina and Nick, introduced their father for the award. They cited several examples of his decades-long devotion to the profession and his fellow dentists, and said his commitment is easy to see: “His passion and advocacy for dentistry – it radiates,” Gina said. “Service to others has been the thread throughout my Dad’s professional career but also his personal life.”
Nick cited his father’s work with an accreditation board as an example of caring about the future of the profession. “That’s why he volunteered and gave his time to be a Northeast Regional Board Examiner. He traveled around the country making sure that the future of dentistry here in the United States is going to be full of really, really good dentists who know what they are doing. (They are) going to be able to take care of people appropriately and make sure that we continue to have healthy smiles from now into the future.”
In thanking the school and Board of Governors for the award, Reggie VanderVeen encouraged his fellow alumni to continue their support for the dental school as a way to give back for an education that laid the foundation for their careers, family life and many great experiences. “I think that everybody who comes back here understands how much we love it,” he said.
VanderVeen said supporting dentistry in various ways was an obvious choice for him. He cited his volunteer work with the Clinica Santa Maria, a Hispanic population dental clinic in the Grand Rapids area that was championed by his DDS classmate Dr. Tim Gietzen. Explaining why he did much of his volunteer work, including at that clinic, VanderVeen said, “I absolutely, positively enjoyed every minute of it.”
Following the awards luncheon on Thursday, Reunion Weekend included tours of the newly renovated School of Dentistry building and a continuing education course on Friday. A reunion reception was held on Friday evening for School of Dentistry class years ending in 2 and 7, with alumni from 1962 through 2017 joining the emeritus Class of 1972. Dental school alumni also attended the U-M football game versus Nebraska on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
To read more about Dr. Gloria Kerry, see this story published on the School of Dentistry website in August 2018 when her two granddaughters began dental school. The Kerry family portion is the second of three families profiled in the story.
To read more about Dr. Reggie VanderVeen, see this Alumni Profile that was published on the School of Dentistry website in February 2021.
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral healthcare education, research, patient care and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu. Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (734) 615-1971.