Welcome back. I hope you got some rest over the break and had time to spend with your family and friends. I want to thank you all for the past year. We accomplished much. Without your passion and commitment, our accomplishments would not have been possible. As usual, we will have much to do this coming year. I know it will be an exciting and fulfilling year.

I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with the Class of 2011 this past Friday, chatting with them for about two hours. I talked about my personal philosophy. In addition, I spoke about the profession and what it means to be an oral healthcare provider in society as well as the tremendous positive aspects of the Dugoni School. They are an extraordinary group of young people. Not only have they achieved a strong academic record, but they have demonstrated a commitment to the community and to leadership. They have been engaged at their various universities, supporting their communities, as well as holding leadership positions. I asked them to keep that passion, not only during the time they are here, but continue it on throughout life. I talked with them about a frustration with myself and other baby boomers who made a commitment to change the world when we were at our own universities. I believe we have failed to keep up with that passion and commitment.

On Saturday, I was able to greet a little more than 200 significant others - parents, spouses, friends, and other relatives - who will be giving our students great support during the next three years. As I explained to them, the dental school is challenging and they need to continue to be an important part of their lives.

Each time I walk away from one of these events, I feel proud to be a part of this great institution. My theme throughout the weekend was the importance of people. The common thread throughout all great organizations is the fact that they have great people, which is clearly the case at the Dugoni School. I feel blessed to begin my third year as the dean and work with so many extraordinary people. We have 500+ faculty and staff, and 500+ students, giving us over 1,000. Our reach extends beyond that to our 6,000+ alumni, friends, and supporters.

I look forward to working with you all during the coming year. If there is anything I can do for you personally, please feel free to contact me. My very best wishes.

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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.

Fishing trip
Fishing trip

I am pleased to say my trip down the Smith River was very successful. It was incredibly relaxing and it gave me a chance to reflect. I continue to encourage you to take a similar opportunity to do this during the summer when you have some time.

It is always amazing how one can do these sort of things and become reenergized and also put things in perspective. I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to do this and also spend some quality time with our good friends, Dr. Tom Bales and Mr. Fred de Roode.

As we approach the celebration of our independence, please enjoy the long weekend. Enjoy family and friends in the various manners you will be celebrating the 4th of July. If you are traveling, be safe.

I look forward to seeing you when we get together at the beginning of the academic year.

Today, I am beginning my journey down the Smith River in Montana. It is the first time I will go fly fishing. I am pleased I get to enjoy this time with several of our dear friends of the dental school, Dr. Tom Bales and Mr. Fred de Roode. They indicated to me that it was time that I learn how to relax, so I am going to give it a try. There will be no pictures of the experience. I will be sleeping in a sleeping bag on the banks of the river for five nights. I may be the best dressed non-fisherman on the trip.

I encourage you all to relax during the break. I think we all need time for reflection and relaxation with family and friends. I will not be in communication during this week. Apparently, cell phone reception and other ways of communicating are non-existent, so that is probably good news for you all. You will not get any messages from me asking you to do something. At the same time, I apologize if there is anything you need from me. I will not be able to get back to it until I reach civilization again on Saturday.

Best wishes and safe travels wherever you may be during the break — a break that is well deserved for everyone.