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Professor Devotes 50 Years of Service to University of Texas Dental Branch
Up to 6,000 students have learned from Professor Kenneth Brady, D.D.S.; still more to come
Professor Kenneth Brady, D.D.S., has now logged 50 years on the faculty of The University of Texas Dental Branch, but his roots stretch ever further back. He was once a UT dental student himself, attending classes in an old brick building at the corner of Fannin and Blodgett streets.
"That building should have been discarded years before," he recalled. "We worked without air conditioning, with windows open. Administration didn't like the science area being so close because of the aroma that came from the cadavers. We actually did most of our preclinical work in temporary buildings put up like military barracks."
In 1955, the dental school moved to the current location at 6516 M.D. Anderson Boulevard and got a new name, too - The UT Dental Branch - but Brady's classmates had another name for the new building. "We called it ‘The Pink Palace' because of the granite," Brady said. "It was a tremendous change to come here. It was like an entirely different world."
In the decades since then, if Brady has come to think of the Dental Branch as home, it's understandable. "I've spent a lot more time in this building than I have with my own family or my own house," he said.
He still gets to work at 5:30 a.m., in part to beat the traffic from Richmond/ Rosenberg, but also to clear his mind and tend to paperwork uninterrupted.
He has devoted his career to clinical teaching, and he estimates that he's taught between 5,000 and 6,000 students, including many who were second generation dental students. Like all educators, he sees a potential bit of immortality through those students. "A little bit of you goes with them when they walk across that stage," he said of watching students graduate.
Brady was well into his dental career when UTDB began trying to recruit women and minorities into the primarily all-white, all-male school. Although the students became more diverse, he said they came with the same abilities, problems, talents and challenges he'd always seen, and he considered it his job to try to bring out their best.
UTDB had its first black graduate, Zeb Poindexter, in 1956, so Brady has either known or taught every black student who has passed through the dental school. His reputation for caring about their success led the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) to present him with a "Faculty of the Century Award" at a July 1 reception in his honor at the Dental Branch, when his 50 years on the faculty were celebrated.
Associate Professor and Urgent Care Clinic Director C.D. Johnson, D.D.S., himself a former student of Brady's, presented the award. "Dr. Brady taught based on the needs of each student," Johnson said. "He never raised his voice and rarely showed frustration with a student's lack of skill or know-how."
When Johnson joined the UTDB faculty himself, he found Brady to be "the mentor's mentor. Faculty members past and present regard him as the person we'd all most want to be like."
Receiving the SNDA award "felt very good. In fact, I kind of broke down," Brady said. "That's the only thing that kind of got to me, that award. A lot of their faces flashed through my mind."
When the Dental Branch moves to a new location in 2011, it will be a once-in- a-lifetime event for most UTDB personnel and students. But retirement is on Brady's mind more and more, and he said he probably won't be around to see the new building, "But that's okay, too," he added.
When he leaves the Dental Branch, he will spend more time on his ranch outside Rosenberg, where he has a fishing pond and cattle to tend. His sons are nearby, and between them, Brady and his wife, Pat, have nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
After 50 years at work, he's learned the value of activities that soothe the soul. "Everybody has troubles," he said. "You need to get your mind away from those thoughts and onto something more pleasant."
By Rhonda Moran, Dental Branch
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