Penn Dental School Alumnus/World War II Commander Gives $17.3 Million In Largest Ever Gift to Penn Dental

PHILADELPHIA – Dr. Louis Schoenleber, Jr. (C’42, D’43), an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, World War II Navy Commander and oral surgeon, has left the majority of proceeds from his multi-million-dollar estate to Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The bequest, totaling $17.3 million, is the largest gift in the School’s history and one of the largest gifts ever to a U.S. dental school.

Schoenleber died on Jan. 7, 2005, at the age of 84, but the full amount of the gift was only recently realized upon final settlement of the estate.

The gift will provide funding specifically for Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and its dual-degree residency program, a rigorous, six-year program in which students earn a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a two-year certificate of general surgery and a certificate in oral and maxillofacial surgery from Penn Dental Medicine. Established in 1986 as one of only a handful of such programs in the country to offer a combined MD and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery certificate, the program draws approximately 80 to 100 applicants each year for its three highly competitive residency spots.

“The role of the oral surgeon is unique and multidisciplinary– that of both dentist and surgeon,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “Louis Schoenleber understood this role well, and we are enormously grateful for his generosity to Penn. His gift will provide a lasting legacy to Penn Dental Medicine. It will support advanced research, training, and clinical services of faculty and students who dedicate themselves to this extremely rigorous and important field that combines dentistry, broad-based medicine, and surgery.”

Schoenleber greatly admired the dual-degree training program and the advanced research and clinical care conducted within the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and intended his gift to continue the School’s position as one of the premier oral surgery programs in the country. According to his will, the funds can be used by the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to fund research, facility construction and renovation, continuing education, new technology and equipment, and endowed professorships and faculty positions.

“Typical community oral surgery units and indeed many teaching hospitals do not possess the level of medical equipment needed to perform the complex oral surgical procedures undertaken within Penn Dental's Oral Surgery Department,” said Denis F. Kinane, Morton Amsterdam Dean of Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. “Oral surgery is a vital aspect of dental medicine that requires specialized training. This gift means that Penn can remain at the forefront of this field and take on the complex cases that lie at the junction of surgery and dentistry.”

Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery handles a variety of complex cases involving trauma, tumor removal and congenital jaw deformities. It is also the largest center nationally for jaw joint replacement. Peter Quinn, DMD, MD, founding chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the first Louis Schoenleber Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, developed the only FDA-approved stock temporomandibular joint, or TMJ prosthesis.

In 1993, the year of his retirement, Schoenleber returned to Penn Dental Medicine for his 50th reunion. During that visit, he met with Quinn for the first time, a meeting that inspired a great admiration for the work of the Department and a deep friendship with Quinn that would eventually lead to Schoenleber’s support of the Department’s future through his gift.

“The gift was the culmination of his lifelong passion for oral surgery and fittingly, it will help to advance medicine in this field,” said Quinn, who also serves as senior vice president for Clinical Practices at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and vice dean for Professional Services at the School of Medicine. “What interested him most was our dual-degree program. He believed strongly that to be an oral surgeon in this day and age you needed both dental and medical training. Our program seemed to fulfill his dreams of what should happen in this specialty.”

Schoenleber, Jr., born June 19, 1920, and raised in North Arlington, NJ, entered Penn as an undergraduate in 1938. In 1940, he began his studies at Penn Dental Medicine at a time when students could be admitted to the dental school after completing two years at an undergraduate college. Upon graduation from Penn Dental Medicine in December 1943, Schoenleber entered the Navy, gaining much of his oral surgery experience during his World War II service. Following his service, Schoenleber maintained an oral surgery practice in Ridgewood, N.J., where he practiced for 35 years.