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What an extraordinary weekend at the Dugoni School, with two great events sponsored by our great Alumni Association. The welcoming cioppino feast and the White Coat Ceremony were the key activities this weekend.

The cioppino dinner began many years ago when a group of our graduates came together to provide a meal to welcome the new students. These gentlemen from the alumni get together each year in one of their backyard kitchens, begin early in the morning, select the seafood, and prepare the cioppino. For two years, I have had the privilege to watch them and somewhat participate in the cioppino preparation. During the time I spent with them, I got to see their passion and commitment to the Dugoni School, but more important, their passion and commitment to each other.

I have said to the classes as they enter that the people you meet during these three years will become some of your very best friends. This group of graduates is truly an example of how that friendship has been maintained through many years. They are not only colleagues, but they are truly deep friends. They celebrate all the important occasions together as a large family.

The White Coat Ceremony has also been a long term tradition at the Dugoni School. It is important to point out that we were the very first dental school to conduct the White Coat Ceremony. Today, I am pleased to say that most dental schools in the United States have a similar event. It was impressive to look from the stage into the audience and see our DDS, IDS and dental hygiene students in their white coats. It made me think about how lucky we are to have such dedicated young people. I realize our profession is in good hands with them, but more important, the patients they will be treating now and into the future are in excellent hands. These young people are about to embark on the new experience of patient care. I am so proud to be a part of this new experience.

As always, we celebrate important occasions. That is a part of our great culture here at the Dugoni School. I want to again thank all the staff who worked so hard to pull these events together, and all the volunteers who give up the precious little time they have to help make these events extraordinary.

Finally, thank you to the great Alumni Association. It is so impressive all the things they do, the alumni weekend, which I know many of you will participate in as students and future graduates, and the graduation awards banquet at the Ritz Carlton is also an extraordinary event. They support the Articulating Paper. These are just a few of the examples of all that they do for the Dugoni School.

I am proud of you – the alumni – and I really want to say on behalf of everyone, thank you for what you do.

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Recently, I read an article in the June 16, 2008 issue of ADA News called "A dental student living in Harlem." If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read this opinion from this extraordinary young person who is a student at NYU. He is a shining example of what this generation is all about. It has been my experience of interacting with the students here at the Dugoni School that they have a similar strong commitment in helping citizens to overcome their many disadvantages. I am pleased to see our students involved in so many volunteer programs both in the United States as well as abroad. It shows their strong commitment to give back to society.

The student stated the following:

“We all can be mentors and leaders in our locales, but too many of us don’t even know the first names of our next-door neighbors.”

A very profound quote. Today we are all very busy with our own lives and the complexities of trying to achieve success. Do not misunderstand me — success is important. One needs to ensure that one's own financial success is addressed. But we cannot forget those around us; too many people today, especially in today’s economics, are struggling even harder than ever. We need to reach out to them.

Baby boomers often state that our young people do not care. I am pleased to see that this generation of students coming into the Dugoni School care a lot about people. We need to encourage them, support them and work side by side. As a baby boomer, I am encouraged that society is in good hands with our young people.