Alumni Feed Alumni/Donors Events

Reunion Weekend: Series of events welcome alumni ‘Back Home’12 min read

December 8, 2023

Reunion Weekend: Series of events welcome alumni ‘Back Home’12 min read

A fun and common quest for alumni who returned for the weekend was finding their graduation class composite photos in the hallways of the school.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Dec. 8, 2023 – Dentists and dental hygienists who graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry returned for the annual Reunion Weekend in November to share countless memories and catch up on the lives of their classmates and friends.

Alumni celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation in the Class of 1973 received a special tribute during the weekend’s festivities at a program led by Dean Jacques Nör at the Michigan League. About 50 dentists and hygienists in the class were presented with a University of Michigan emeritus pin and personalized School of Dentistry emeritus medallion.

The emeritus ceremony was followed by a luncheon attended by about 130 alumni, guests and family members of those honored by the school during its annual Hall of Honor induction and presentation of its Distinguished Service Awards.

DDS Class of 1998 classmates (from left) Dr. Tony Cianfarani, Dr. Anil Ralhan and Dr. Dave Lomasney share a laugh during the all-class reception Friday evening during Reunion Weekend.

Also during the weekend, from Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 9-11, about 150 alumni and guests attended a Friday evening cocktail reception at the League. Alumni from all classes were welcomed “back home” to their U-M roots with a student DJ, School of Dentistry photo backdrop and plenty of revelry. The Class of 1998 had the largest contingent in attendance. Earlier Friday, alumni could attend a Continuing Education course.

Rounding out the reunion event on Saturday, about 100 alumni and their guests were served breakfast and toured the School of Dentistry to see the major Blue Renew renovation and addition completed last year. Groups of alumni were led on building tours by faculty, staff and student guides. In addition to seeing the new state-of-the-art facilities and clinics, alumni delighted in finding their historical class composite photos from their graduation year. Exhibits at the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry were also a popular stop.

During the emeritus class program Thursday, Dean Nör presented a summary of the school’s current departments and recent developments. In thanking the alumni for attending the reunion, he noted that the school has a long history – now 148 years since its founding in 1875 – of leading the advancement of dentistry, dental education and related science. That commitment has continued to draw the best and brightest students for nearly a century and a half. Nör congratulated the emeritus alumni for choosing dentistry and U-M, and for their long careers focused on helping other people.

“You chose to continue your education at a top professional school. You pressed on through a difficult course of study, bettering yourself as you went. You achieved at a high level and went out into the world to help thousands of your patients improve their oral health. That is an incredibly important achievement and legacy for each of you. Without question, each of you has contributed to this atmosphere and tradition of  ‘leaders and best’ at our school. For that, we cannot thank you enough.”

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, 54 people have been honored with a plaque on the ground floor of the Kellogg Building at the school.

Dr. Michael Behnan, Chair of the Alumni Board of Governors, announced that this year’s honoree is Dr. Robert Doerr, who earned his DDS in 1950 and his MS in Operative Dentistry in 1953. He joined the dental school as an instructor shortly after graduation in 1950. After obtaining his master’s degree in operative dentistry three years later, he moved steadily through faculty promotions, reaching the rank of professor in 1961 and beginning a two-decade tenure as Associate Dean in 1962. By the time he retired at the end of 1986, he had been a leader at the dental school for 36 years and his CV was a remarkably long list of local, state and national service to dentistry.

Robert Doerr’s son and grandson – Dr. Thomas Doerr (right) and Christian Parker (center) – were presented with the Hall of Honor plaque by Dean Jacques Nör.

Robert Doerr’s son, Dr. Thomas Doerr, a retired surgeon who lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina, spoke for a large contingent of family members who attended the luncheon. He said his father’s distinguished career in academic dentistry had an unlikely beginning. Robert Doerr had planned to enroll in U-M’s graduate music program as an accomplished pianist and choral musician. But he had gained an interest in dentistry while serving as a dentist’s field assistant in the U.S. Army, so he inquired about the U-M dental school shortly before the academic term was to start. He was told the entering dental class was full, so Doerr decided to continue with his original plan for a music degree. Then the day before dental school classes were to start, the school called to say that an admitted student had deferred their entrance a year, so a spot was open for Doerr. He started dental school the very next day. One of Robert Doerr’s grandsons, Christian Parker of Nashville, Tennessee, said he knows his grandfather would be honored by the recognition. “The school, the students and the university held a special place in his life. Outside of his family – particularly my grandmother, his wife Mary – his career and his relationships at Michigan were his greatest accomplishments and his greatest achievements.”

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.

Distinguished Service recipient Dr. Sharon Brooks (center) with Dean Nör and Marilyn Woolfolk, who introduced Brooks during the awards program.

The 2023 recipient is Dr. Sharon Brooks, who earned her DDS at the School of Dentistry in 1973. She graduated on a Friday evening and started as a full-time clinical instructor at the dental school on the following Monday. It was the start of a 37-year career culminating in appointments as Professor of Oral Diagnosis and Radiology at the dental school and Associate Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology at the U-M medical school.

In her introduction, Dr. Marilyn Woolfolk, Professor Emerita of Dentistry and Assistant Dean Emerita for Student Services, called Brooks an outstanding educator who earned an international standing in oral radiology. Woolfolk considered Brooks a mentor who provided effective counsel as both an experienced faculty member and as a woman in dentistry. “She started at the dental school at a time when there were few women dentists with full-time faculty appointments,” Woolfolk said. “She quickly advanced to full professor. Her achievements and the trailblazing track to professor attest to her efforts to be the best and then translate those efforts to train the best for the profession.”

Brooks thanked the school for the recognition for a career that, she said, “has been so much fun.” She cited a significant mentor, Professor Dean Millard, her department chair. She had been on faculty only a short time when a radiology professor retired and Millard asked Brooks to take over some of his graduate classes. “I said, ‘I don’t know enough to teach those.’ He told me two words: ‘You’ll learn.’ I did and I moved on from there.” It was an example of a mentor displaying faith in an underling and encouraging them to broaden their horizon. Such mentoring eventually became one of her own strengths with students and junior faculty throughout the dental school.

Sharon and her husband, Dave, who live near Chelsea, Michigan, are longtime financial supporters of the dental school. Their major gifts have established the Dr. Sharon Brooks Fellowship to support graduate students in oral pathology and radiation, as well as the school’s Blue Renew renovation.

Outstanding Dental Hygiene Alumni Award

Virginia “Ginny” Przygocki, who earned her BSDH at the dental school in 1976, received the 2023 School of Dentistry Board of Governors Outstanding Dental Hygiene Alumni Award.

Dental Hygiene award-winner Ginny Przygocki (center) is congratulated by her sister, Susan Zurvalec, who provided the introduction, and Dean Nör.

Przygocki used her bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene as a springboard to an expanded and impressive career in health sciences and academia. After practicing full-time with a Saginaw periodontist for three years after graduating in 1976, she was hired by Delta College to start a new dental hygiene program with two other faculty members. She continued to practice part-time while teaching at Delta full-time for more than 30 years, in both classroom and clinic. She was promoted to DH Director from 1996-2005, then was appointed Chair to lead and manage Delta’s Health and Wellness Division, the largest at the community college, which serves Michigan’s Saginaw, Midland and Bay counties.

In 2008, Przygocki was named Dean of Delta’s Career Education and Learning Partnerships. She managed all career education programs as well at the college library, Teaching and Learning Center, Testing Center, high school dual enrollment programs and occupational advisory committees. She held the dean role until her retirement in 2020. Along the way, she served on numerous college, state and national committees focused on improving education, accreditation, leadership, diversity and other higher learning initiatives.

Przygocki’s sister, Susan Zurvalec of Brighton, Michigan, cited her sister’s track record of excellence in dental hygiene and educational administration. “There are several themes that run through Ginny’s extensive career that I believe capture why she is so deserving of this prestigious award: Excellence in everything she does. Leadership with results. Innovation for positive change. Service to others in the profession.”

Przygocki, who lives in Essexville, Michigan, said she was overwhelmed with gratitude in thanking those who have helped her over the course of her career. “The journey started with the excellent, great dental hygiene program. You all experienced it,” she said to the hygiene alumni in attendance. “Sometimes it was rough, but it prepared us for a lot.” Throughout her career in higher education, she said she drew on both her dental hygiene education and the rest of her experience at U-M. “This a wonderful place,” she said.

More snapshots below from the 2023 Reunion Weekend.

Student and staff guides ensured that returning alumni would be able to find their way around the recently renovated school during the Saturday morning tour sessions.
Wolverines with a wolverine: During the Saturday morning dental school tour, DDS Class of 1973 classmates (from left) Dr. David Hancock, Dr. Bill Maas and Dr. Marvin Sonne pose with the wolverine pelt that their class gifted to the School of Dentistry in 1993. The three alumni said they were impressed by the state-of-the-art clinical facilities completed during the school’s recent Blue Renew renovation, but they also made the effort during the tour to find this longstanding display outside the Faculty Alumni Lounge in the research tower.
The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry antique dental chair display, intended to be a photo opportunity for visitors, accomplished its mission for some of the visiting alumni touring the school.
Members of the 1973 Dental Hygiene class who attended Reunion Weekend.
Members of the DDS Class of 1973 and and one MS graduate (inset) who attended Reunion Weekend.


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:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.