From the moment you met him, you were immediately captivated. And whether you knew him for years or just a few months, you were changed because of him.
“Stan Handelman was a truly remarkable person, and his insights and advice have had a profound impact on my life,” said Oivind E. Jensen, DDS, MS (GenDen ’76, MS ’78). “Stan’s impact on postgraduate training and the hundreds of dentists he mentored over the years is legendary.”
Dr. Jensen came to Eastman in 1975 with plans of doing a one-year residency and return to Norway to start private practice. “Within months, Stan had gotten me interested in doing sealant research, and convinced me to stay an additional two years,” Dr. Jensen said. “During that time he offered me the position of Assistant Chairman, and over the following 13 years, I worked closely with him on administration, teaching, dental research and behavioral science.”
Like Dr. Jensen, so many alumni, friends and colleagues were saddened by Dr. Stanley Handelman’s passing earlier this month, and paused to reflect how he made a difference.
“Simply put, he cared deeply about people, said Dr. Domenick Zero, (GenDen ’75, MS ‘79), director, Oral Health Research Institute and professor at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, who called Stan his friend and mentor. “I have always marveled at Stan’s intellect and vision, but was most impressive was his sense of humanity. Stan created a culture of inclusiveness, openness and creativity as the chair of General Dentistry that touched all of his many students, faculty and staff.”
Raised in Brooklyn surrounded by wonderful family and friends, Dr. Handelman attended William and Jefferson College where he enjoyed learning liberal arts and cultivating many more friendships including Dr. Walter Cooper--scientist, educator, and civil rights leader, who remained a very close friend throughout the rest of his life. After earning his DMD from Tufts University Dental School, Dr. Handelman came to Eastman Dental Dispensary in 1958 to work as a research associate and instructor, eventually becoming chair of General Dentistry for 24 years and remaining on faculty for 36 years. He, authored more than 80 publications, maintained a private practice and was active in the profession locally, regionally and nationally.
Dr. Handelman and his first wife Estelle had four sons, Allen, Bruce, Jacob, and Paul. After the loss of Estelle, Stan married Ruth, whose two daughters Sabrina and Rebecca and their respective families blended harmoniously with Stan’s children and their families. He was a talented photographer and enjoyed producing his own prints. A master craftsman and cabinet maker, Dr. Handelman was always busy with a project, even making his own furniture. His wonderful cutting boards were admired and enjoyed those who received one as a gift.
Dr. David Levy, who joined the private practice Dr. Handelman established some 60 years ago and played cards with Stan every week for 25 years, including the night before he passed, spoke at his funeral.
He shared how Stan established an alternative to the traditional hospital based general dentistry residency type of program, which has today become the more popular program across the country. Because of all his contributions to dental education, he explained, Dr. Handelman became known as the Father of Advanced Education in General Dentistry.
“But it was Stan’s warm and nurturing relationships with us that were most important and what we most cherish,” Dr. Levy said. “There are so many of us around the world who were lucky enough to come to Rochester and train under his guidance. He most deservedly takes his place amongst a Rochester group of significant, world renowned educators, researchers and contributors to the dental profession that includes Basil Bibby, Helmut Zander, Michael Buonocore, and Bejan Iranpour.”
In 1994, Dr. Handelman handed the baton to Dr. Hans Malmstrom, who first met him at an American Dental Education Association meeting a few years before he even considered coming to Rochester.
“He was leading a seminar on postdoctoral general dentistry education,” Dr. Malmstrom recalled. “I was immediately impressed by the way he led the discussion – listening carefully and permitting everyone’s viewpoint to be heard. I sensed the respect he had among the academic community.”
Dr. Malmstrom’s many fond memories include Stan’s sincere desire to contribute to his success as the new chair. “He guided me in so many ways, even after his retirement.” Annual leadership retreats included passionate discussions about the AEGD program and its direction, and educational needs of general dentistry, in addition to a little recreational sailing and hiking.
“I always looked forward to these retreats for rejuvenation and to learn from a true gentleman, one who respected all people, who strongly believed in inclusiveness and quality regardless of race, gender, religious belief or ethnic background,” Dr. Malmstrom continued. “His beliefs helped shape the AEGD program, the Department of General Dentistry and EIOH as a multicultural, diverse and inclusive environment.”
To that end, Sari Alzoubi, a current AEGD resident, is very grateful for everything Stan did, and told him just that this past May at the yearly picnic following the Handelman Conference.
“I told him without an AEGD accredited program for international graduates, it would be impossible for people like me to practice dentistry in the U.S.,” said Alzoubi, who became close to Stan over the last several months. “He was like a second father to me as well as my children’s grandfather.”
With the help of Allen and Bruce, Sari and her kids enjoyed spending time with Stan, whether they were eating homemade Indonesian food or going out to eat, strolling along the riverside, listening to music, playing cards or sharing cultural and religious traditions. Despite his increasing physical limitations, he was always so positive and witty, and a true lover of life.
“After his death, the Handelman family overwhelmed me and my children with warmly open arms welcoming us into his extended family,” Sari said. “Stan gave his family to be part of my own, which is what Eastman Institute for Oral Health is all about. We are one big close family, no matter what our background is.”
“His contributions to postdoctoral general dentistry education, General Dentistry Department and EIOH cannot be overstated,” added Dr. Malmstrom. “Everyone is going to miss him as a colleague, friend, mentor and role model.”