Commencement Day at The University of Michigan School of Dentistry
Dean, School of Dentistry
William K and Mary Anne Najjar Professor of Periodontics
Professor of Pathology, Medical School
Chief Dental Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service
Dental Hygiene Class President
Allison Carron is the president of the senior Dental Hygiene Class of 2020. Allison graduated from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Magna Cum Laude in April 2011, and she also received University Honors and the Dean’s List recognition 5 semesters in the Stamps School of Art & Design.
Allison returned to the University of Michigan to begin the Dental Hygiene Program fall 2017 and served as class president all three years. Most recently, Allison was chosen for membership into the Sigma Phi Alpha Honor Society, and she also received the Pauline F. Steele Student Leadership Award recognizing her outstanding leadership abilities while a dental hygiene student. Allison graduates from the Dental Hygiene Program earning Highest Distinction for superior scholastic achievement. We thank Allison for her contributions and congratulate her on her success. Please enjoy Allison’s remarks as she addresses the classes and presents the Dental Hygiene Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award in the following video presentation.
The Dental Hygiene Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award is in recognition of the faculty member that has significantly impacted the senior dental hygiene students' education and personal success throughout their three-years in the program.
Clinical Lecturer in Dentistry
Thank you for honoring me with this award and the opportunity to present this letter to you. I am deeply moved by this recognition for teaching excellence. You should also know that you have all genuinely impacted my own personal growth. When you receive an award like this, it makes you reflect on your own career; at least when you are my age! Forty years ago, this month, I was thinking about my own graduation from this University’s dental hygiene program. I can remember the feeling of pride and relief, as well as a bit of trepidation. I thought I was finally done with my education and at that point in time, I was. But life has a way of evolving and providing opportunities for change. It took a family tragedy for me to look at my own future with a different perspective, take the next step, and enroll in graduate school.
I was fortunate enough to have started my experience with clinical teaching almost three decades ago. That one position drew me further into higher education and health care administration. It gave me the opportunity to make a difference in the profession of dental hygiene. Your recognition of the difference I have made in your lives, is what motivates me to strive to do my best. My passion for this profession is driven by your successes, both individually and as a class.
Since I had the privilege to teach in both clinical and classroom settings, it allowed me to observe how each of you struggled with the incessant papers, assignments, and the never-ending clinical requirements. You have overcome all these challenges as demonstrated by your upcoming graduation. During this time of watching each of you learn, I experienced unforgettable moments that made me proud to be one of your faculty members. A few instances include when a difficult concept was realized, hearing a patient compliment you in clinic, or just observing your support of a classmate through a tough day.
Through the last three years you have shared some of your dreams, frustrations, and life experiences - both good and bad. Some of you have become engaged, some married, some pregnant, and others have lost loved ones. These casual conversations we had may just have seemed to be in passing, but I sincerely remember each of them and how they allowed us to grow together while working towards your graduation.
When I look back at the many years of dental hygiene classes that I have been blessed to be a part of, there is always something unique to each one. When I think of this class, I see a determined group of young ladies and men who have spoken up for what you believed in with sincerity, conviction, and professionalism. I also see a class who really wants to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Some of you will go on to work in private practice, some will further your education, some will change careers, while others will find unique ways to utilize your skills and education. My hope for each of you is that you stay in touch with each other as much as possible, maintain your desire to learn new things after graduation, and continually have new goals to strive for. You have lived through the Michigan difference with the philosophy of working hard and helping others. This must remain a focus in your lives wherever you end up living in this wide and complicated world.
We are in a unique time in our history as we have seen unbelievable events happening nationally and internationally. These events have led to your final semester of your program being cut short without the opportunity to have a formal graduation ceremony. We can all appreciate the sense of completion and accomplishment that comes with such an official tradition. Know that all of us at the School of Dentistry have pride in your achievements and hope in our hearts that you can feel, through this virtual ceremony, our dedication and commitment to all of you for years to come. I personally feel a sense of privilege to be the faculty member presenting this letter to the Dental Hygiene Class of 2020 as I fully realize the collective impact that the entire faculty, administration, and staff have had on your success.
Lastly, I will never forget the Zoom conferencing call used to inform me of this award. I could see your smiling faces over the computer monitor speaking together our phrase regarding biofilm! I always knew I would never forget this class, and now you are on my screensaver! To the graduates who made this award possible, I will forever be grateful. Thank you for giving me such a rich experience during your educational journey at the School of Dentistry.
In closing, Dale Carnegie once said, “You'll never achieve real success unless you like what you're doing.” All of you have allowed me to love what I am doing.
Go Blue forever!
Mrs. Sheree Duff
Doctor of Dental Surgery Class President
The faculty award presented by the graduating DDS class is named in honor of Dr. Paul Gibbons, a School of Dentistry alumnus and professor who was a nationally renowned expert in prosthodontics and cleft palate treatment. Some of the phrases used to describe Dr. Gibbons were "compassionate," "a great friend to students," and "a personality that attracted people." He passed in 1964 at age 44, six months after he had received the senior class faculty teaching award, which was then renamed in his honor. The focus of this award is to recognize a faculty member who, in the opinion of the senior class, contributed most to their learning during the full four years of their predoctoral program
Clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry
Dear Graduates, Parents, Partners, Extended Family, Staff, Old Friends, New Friends, Faculty, Administration and Colleagues,
It is an honor to have been chosen for the Class of 2020’s Faculty Award, which is named for Dr. Paul Gibbons, an educator described as having united “a lively imagination with an extremely sound judgement; his humor, good nature, and forthright honesty commended (Dr. Gibbons) to his students as mentor and personal model.” It is humbling to be recognized in this manner.
Graduation 2020 - this is really such a remarkable celebration, one that has been longer in the making than the four years our Class of 2020 has spent at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
Our celebration has its roots further in the past, beginning with that moment of sudden realization, inspiration, or recognition that each and every individual of the Class experienced on their journey to becoming a dentist. And so, four years ago, the School assembled the best and the brightest here to our campus in Ann Arbor and started that journey. Today not only marks the end of those compelling, enriching and arduous four years, but marks an important milestone on the journey in what we all hope continues to evolve as rich and fulfilling careers.
It is tradition to address the graduates with praises of their accomplishments and with thoughts and inspirations, a bit of reflection and maybe a few personal requests. I wish I could create a rhyme like Dr. Elliot Hill did back in 2018, but that is not one of my talents. Standing in front of this Class with 250 PowerPoint slides and waxing endlessly about pediatric dentistry is more in my wheelhouse, but unfortunately my Zoom account is in overdraft mode - lucky you.
So onto my thoughts and inspirations.
Let me start out by stating that the comfortable and possibly naïve world that we lived in has forever changed. Our confidence in what we knew to be true and complete has been shaken.
Realize that no longer is everything cut and dry, black and white. That comfortable world we lived in is more of the fifty shades of gray variety - no reference to the book - than one of ‘yes-or-no,’ ‘up-or-down’ choices that makes life easier in a black and white world. Let’s face it - life got grayer, more complicated.
But with that loss of comfortableness comes a new journey, a hero’s journey. I like to think that this grayness challenges our flexibility and adaptability. Black and white is too extreme - finding balance between career, science, service, new learning, life and love gives peace. Finding answers to new questions, redefining old rules, learning from the past to create a better future - these are the talents that you all have. I have great faith that as individuals, you have been prepared to take on these challenges.
The knowledge you have that no one can take away from you, the way that we have taught you to practice, the specifics and nuances of providing exceptional oral health care to the public will continue to be a solid point of entry, but will, unequivocally need to evolve. In our future, we will be engaged in reinventing how we deliver that exceptional oral health care. Speaking as a member of the faculty, our faith in you is strong. Speaking as an individual, I challenge you to seek out new answers and grow. You are the future.
Be very cautious of people who are absolutely right, especially when they are vehemently so. Truth is very rarely found in the extremes. This black and white thinking limits understanding and feedback, two necessary ingredients for successful resolution in creative thinking and successful understanding.
Doing the dirty, difficult work whether through prayer, meditation or study that comes with living in between the black and the white provides a fuller and richer existence. It’s always easier to default to an extreme than it is to find the buried truth that is found in living in the beautiful understanding and peace that is gray.
I give you some friendly Uncle Larry advice - seek out balance in your lives as well.
Now for the reflection part. Let’s step back and remember why we are here in our new Shared Virtual Space. Graduation and the conferring of the DDS degree acts as a recognition of 130 very different individuals who, as I stated before, represented some of the best and brightest students, and who followed their passions to a career in dentistry. Firstly, you were chosen to become a part of the School of Dentistry family because of your demonstrated scholastic achievements as well as good works and accomplishments at institutions across the globe. Secondly, and as important, there was something unique and out of the ordinary about the candidates for the Class of 2020 that was recognized - uncommon and unusual - a colorful collection with characteristics and attributes highly desirable for a University of Michigan dental student. As any faculty member knows, each class has its own personality - yours is no exception.
I was invited to address the Class of 2023 at their White Coat Ceremony where I referenced the Universal Hero’s Journey, a narrative made popular by Joseph Campbell. In it, there are three acts or sections:
If I may paraphrase, in the Departure, the hero receives a call to go on an adventure - dentistry. The hero is reluctant to follow the call, but is encouraged and helped by the collective of the dental school.
During the Initiation, the hero faces challenges, either alone or with the assistance of helpers, all the time adapting, learning and growing in order to gain her/his reward - an education.
In the Return, the hero returns to society, newly-formed and with the knowledge and skills achieved which can be used to the benefit of society. You left in one condition and found the source of life to bring you forth into a richer or mature condition.
Along the four year hero’s journey, laughter, fear, successes, triumphs, challenges, lunches, dinners, umbrellas, class notes, and Uber rides all became shared commodities. New terms like SimLab, Canvas, DEI, OSCE and CBDE became shared experiences. During the four years, several marriages occurred, and several children were born, adding to the Class statistics. You have made new best-friends-forever, vacationed together, waited for Match results together. You have become forever changed because of one another. And, you have changed us for the better.
So my graduating almost dentists, please listen up. The graduation ceremony is also your initiation into a part of society that challenges you not only to serve the oral health needs of society, but to persistently cultivate a scholarly interest toward professional achievement. As humans, we try to evolve, change, move, and not live in the same black and white. These were your goals coming in, and these are your goals leaving us.
Through your own courage of self-responsibility and assurance, resourcefulness, reflection, determination, flexibility, cooperation, and hard work, you have continued to evolve.
Hopefully, you have found those sources of life to bring you forth into a richer, mature condition.
You have completed a hero’s journey, so to speak. So here you are, if you are not a hero on the grand sense of redeeming society, you still have taken the journey inside yourselves, spiritually, psychologically, and professionally.
You did not do this selfishly. Along the way you benefited your classmates, your school, your university, your community and your profession.
And you did not do this alone. Hopefully, your classmates and some of us around you have helped guide, nurture, cultivate and develop you.
Hopefully, we have also instilled, inspired and shaken something in you to continue on your journeys.
Symbolized through graduation, you become members of the dental profession, of the larger community of health professionals, of those that serve the public good.
You become no longer students, but colleagues, leaders, the essential elements for change.
And now, the part of my speech where I am supposed to give you advice. And I thought, “I thought I just did - I’m all ‘advised’ out.”
The fact is, you will be giving the advice now - to patients, to parents, to friends, to relatives, to community organizations, to physicians, to television reporters, to students, to anyone who will listen. You are better educated, and you are going to go out into the world, and people are going to listen to what you say.
Please be sound in your advice, clear in your thought, true to your word, and on a not-so rare occasion, remember those of us who you are leaving behind.
My requests - I ask you to promise me to always:
I shall miss you terribly.
Congratulations and Best Wishes!
And, of course, “Go Blue!”
See the list of graduates, as well as their specific programs, thesis, undergraduate institution, honors, and awards