Dentists hit the bricks

If it's Monday, April 5, this must be...the School of Dental Medicine, the latest entry in the Penn construction parade.

You know the scene: A ceremonial groundbreaking, this time for the Robert Schattner Center, the Dental School's new clinical-surgical facility. A tent, a patch of dirt, shovels and dignitaries: President Judith Rodin. Dental School Dean Raymond Fonseca and Associate Dean James Galbally. Benefactor Schattner (D'48) himself and his wife. And a couple of local politicians to exchange pats on the back.

The dean and the president praise everyone and everything. And then there's the dean again, with a word from our sponsor:

"Don't you find, Dr. Rodin, when you give those commencement speeches and addresses of this type, your throat gets sore and scratchy? Well, I find that for me, Chloraseptic spray works wonderfully. One spritz and I'm better. It's just what the doctor ordered."

Amen to that. You see, Schattner invented the stuff, then went on to invent more products that kill bacteria. And those made him able to bankroll this new Dental School facility.

It's a building a lot of people have been waiting a long time for. Two decades, according to Peter Quinn, D.M.D., M.D., chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery and pharmacology.

"We talked about moving the whole school to the old Philadelphia General Hospital site," he said. "But we had an emotional attachment to the Evans Building."

Schattner with The Shovel

Photo by Mark Garvin

That attachment extends to this very day: To toss his patch of earth, Schattner used the shovel used at the Evans Building groundbreaking in 1912.

"It's a magnificent building. Nobody could build that building today. Look at the gargoyles on it - each one's different, and there's probably a story behind every one," Quinn continued.

When it opened in 1915, the Evans Building was the state of the art in dental facilities. But it's not up to today's needs. So the state-of-the-art clinics will go in the new Schattner Center, and the Evans Building will be converted into state-of-the-art classroom space. And it will once again serve as a museum for the artwork that its benefactor, Thomas W. Evans, collected over the years.

For most of the Dental School staff, who got the afternoon off, the event was the first groundbreaking they'd attended. But former Dental School Dean Walter Cohen (D'50) is a veteran; this was his third.

"I was here when they broke ground on the Leon Levy Center in the '60s," he said, "and when they broke ground on 4019 Irving Street in 1953."

That little building was supposed to have been a temporary structure. It will finally come down as part of the Schattner Center project.

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Originally published on April 15, 1999