5 questions with… new School of Dental Medicine dean, alumnus Kenneth Chance

headshot of Kenneth B. Chance Sr.For Kenneth B. Chance, his appointment as dean of the School of Dental Medicine completes a cycle.

“I can now give back,” he said, “all of the training, all of the experiences that I’ve had over the years.”

A Bronx native, Chance, DDS ’79, studied at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine after graduating from Fordham University in New York.

While growing up, the lack of oral health was so visible and widespread in his community that it stirred in Chance an interest to do something about it.

“I know that teeth are very important for the well-being of an individual,” he said. “I wanted to be able to improve the oral health of individuals so they can work, make a living, not have pain, do well in school and have adequate nourishment. At an early age, I was interested in helping individuals in that way.”

While unfamiliar at first with Case Western Reserve, he quickly became impressed with what he viewed as the chance for a well-rounded education at the dental medicine school.

“By the time I came for an interview, I was absolutely awestruck,” he said. “I thought that the individuals here were very engaging and very kind. The facilities were immaculate. I just got a feeling that this was the school I wanted to go to.”

Chance remembers being exposed to many different aspects of health care as a student, integrating clinical applications of new techniques and learning basic science and social science to provide the best patient care.

All of that helped prepare him for his career—a career that led him back to Case Western Reserve.

After a nine-year stint on the university’s Board of Trustees (he was the first dentist to serve on the board) and a career that has seen many stops in the academic sphere of dental medicine, Chance returned to Case Western Reserve to succeed retiring Dean Jerry Goldberg.

The school is as Chance remembers it—with well-kept facilities and the balanced education that initially drew him in. Beyond the educational resources, Chance still remembers the faculty and staff members who helped guide him as a student.

Chance’s assistant, Dorothy Caplin, was among the first people he met during his student interview at Case Western Reserve 39 years ago.

“I’m fortunate to rekindle my friendships and my relations with individuals that have trained and nurtured me, and to provide my expertise for the next generation,” he said.

Chance also has had the opportunity to meet with his mentor, Jefferson J. Jones, a former professor of endodontics and chair of the department. Though Jones is no longer at the school, Chance visits him as much as possible in Cleveland.

The connection with those still at the school was a draw for Chance when considering whether to return to his alma mater to serve as dean.

“I felt that I was aware of the issues of the institution as well as the individuals from central administration and the school,” he said, “and I thought that I could transition well, almost seamlessly into the life and times of the institution.”

Moving forward, Chance hopes to continue Goldberg’s momentum.

“I’m just so impressed with the young people and how bright, enthusiastic and energetic they are and how much they care,” he said. “My association with the young people really energizes me and keeps me going. It really just gives me hope for the future.”

Learn more about Chance in this week’s 5 questions.

1. Who do you consider your greatest role model?

I consider my greatest role models both of my parents. George and Janie Chance, now deceased, sacrificed so much to raise my two brothers and me with all the love and devotion, with a sizable offering of discipline. I cannot thank them enough for the values they have taught and shown. Their integrity and work effort are things I aspire to even now.

2. How do you keep up with the news?

I keep up with the news through a number of ways. I have apps on my phone with bulletins. I watch news programs on TV and I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Plain Dealer.

3. What is the most challenging class you’ve ever taken?

I think the most challenging class I ever took was genetics at Fordham University. Somehow, my mind could not wrap around the logic associated with genetics. That’s the only course I couldn’t understand and I don’t know why. 

4. What do you consider the best invention of all time? 

I think the best invention of all time is the computer, because the computer allows us to function in ways unimaginable. It reaches into almost every aspect of our lives.   Without it, this world would be a very different place. 

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I think my favorite thing about Case Western Reserve is the environment that it provides. Being here in University Circle, we have the availability of a number of different venues that add to the quality of life here. We can go to Severance Hall, the museums, all within walking distance. Our partners with Case Western Reserve allow us to partake in a number of programs and activities that augment the quality of life. I don’t think there’s any place that I know of that can provide a comprehensive intellectual lifestyle as we have here in University Circle.