Reflecting on the Dental School's Beginning

The dental school began as the Philadelphia Dental College in 1863.
Dental School Alumni Association President Dr. Robert Levine ’81, a Civil War reenactor, can easily picture April 1863 -- when a few distinguished dentists launched Philadelphia Dental College, later to become Temple Dental School. The Civil War was culminating, moving toward Gettysburg. The Union Army seemed to be losing, and morale in the North was low. Then, well before the first lectures were given, the July 3 bombardment before Pickett’s Charge was heard as far away as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
 
“I can imagine people standing outside, listening to the one-and-a-half hour bombardment,” says Bob. “It was hot and humid, in the ‘90s. The city’s two dental schools  were across the street from each other and near hospitals. They all  would have had to treat the soldiers. With only the telegraph for communication, the outcome wouldn’t immediately be known.”
 
Yet even with war on their minds, the state legislature had agreed to the idea of a second dental school. The argument of Dr. John McQuillen, who would become dean, was persuasive. Competition and additional study facilities would be good for the profession, he emphasized. In fact, an amicable relationship prevailed, and Philadelphia became the center of dentistry in the country and the world.
 
“I’m proud of our legacy. Dentistry here could have been fractured,” notes Bob. “Instead, together our school and the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery fostered dentistry at a time when we were half the dental schools in the country.”
 
That commitment to excellence was evident from the beginning, when Philadelphia Dental College set standards for graduation, then a revolutionary idea. “We’re still striving to make the school the best place to learn,” says Bob. “The dean’s relationship with students and faculty is second to none. He’s the reason my wife, Sheryl Radin, ’82, and I came back. Now, my goal is to get more alumni involved.”
 
As part of Temple Dental School’s 150th celebration, Bob will be marching in authentic uniform with the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers, part of the Union Second Corp who defended the center Union line during Pickett’s Charge.