ISSUE
     
Grants and Philanthropy
Dr. Larry Rosenthal: A One-Man Philanthropy Engine
 






“I’m a lucky man,” says Dr. Larry Rosenthal, a 1972 graduate of the NYU College of Dentistry. “Dentistry has been very good to me. I’ve been very fortunate to succeed in the profession I love.”

Dr. Rosenthal is widely renowned for his pioneering contributions to aesthetic dentistry, including helping to develop the porcelain laminate veneer in 1981, which, in turn, helped to transform the practice of dentistry. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence as an Educator presented by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

Calling himself a “born promoter,” Dr. Rosenthal says, “Whenever I encounter something truly worthwhile, something I think others can benefit from -- whether it’s a product, a person, or an institution -- I’m passionate about wanting people to know about it and giving them the opportunity to support it.”

Those who know Dr. Rosenthal are likely to agree with his description of himself as a “born promoter.” A person of incredible energy, enthusiasm, and vitality, Dr. Rosenthal likes to quote his father, who told him, “Larry, you have to be your own person, and if you feel good about yourself, that positive energy will spread to others. Your ability to reach out to people is a gift, and you’re failing in your obligation if you do not use it properly.”

In recent years, Dr. Rosenthal has been immensely successful in reaching out to colleagues, friends, and family on behalf of his alma mater, garnering millions of dollars in support for the College in the process.

Dr. Rosenthal has led by example. In 2000, he made a generous $1 million gift to NYUCD, which was recognized with the creation of the Rosenthal Institute for Aesthetic Dentistry, an 8,000-square-foot facility featuring an elegant mahogany and marble décor, 16 state-of-the-art patient treatment areas, a corporate-style, executive boardroom with remote broadcasting capabilities, a modern porcelain laboratory, and a 52-seat amphitheater with global videoconferencing reach, plus an “operatory under glass,” outfitted with multiple cameras to permit live, interactive clinical demonstrations around the world.

“All the success and contentment I’ve achieved in life is because of NYU,” says Dr. Rosenthal, “and I want to give something back. I feel strongly that giving back is essential to my personal happiness. I idolize people who support a cause they believe in. I believe in the NYU College of Dentistry because I see that each and every gift to the College increases in value exponentially.”

Dr. Rosenthal’s passion to support NYUCD was ignited in the late 1990s, when his good friend and classmate, Dr. Dennis Tarnow, Professor and Chair of the Ashman Department of Periodontology & Implant Dentistry, introduced him to former Dean Michael C. Alfano.

“In a very short period of time,” says Dr. Rosenthal, “Mike Alfano introduced a different attitude, a different approach, a different teaching model at NYU. Mike talked about his vision for NYUCD and I witnessed first-hand how that vision was playing out in reality. I saw the dynamics of the school change very dramatically.

“NYUCD became a leader in crossing boundaries and bringing disciplines together. One example is the merger of the departments of periodontics and implant dentistry to form the Ashman Department of Periodontology & Implant Dentistry, which launched a new model for specialty training.

“NYUCD became a moving force changing the profession, driving an entire industry.

“At the same time, a revolution was occurring in terms of people’s perceptions and expectations of dentists because of the broader range of services, like aesthetic dentistry and implants, that were becoming available. Rather than go to a dentist to treat a specific oral problem, more and more people began to go to the dentist for elective procedures to improve their self-image.

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, to see it all evolve and to recognize the importance of the NYU College of Dentistry to the future of the profession. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to help advance the College’s momentum.

“More recently,” says Dr. Rosenthal, “the arrival of Dean Charles Bertolami has brought a new vision, excitement, and energy that will further advance NYUCD’s leadership role in the global dental community. I also want to cite the passion and dedication of Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs Rita Startup, and her team, who are playing a key role in the College’s continuing advancement.”

What are some of Dr. Rosenthal’s tips for influencing others to support NYUCD?

“First of all, it’s different for different people,” he says. “What I say to dentists is different from what I say to patients and friends. But the objective is the same -- to motivate people to become as excited about the opportunity to support NYU as I am. To dentists, I often quote NYU President John Sexton, who says that ‘the one common denominator in life is that you never stop learning,’ and that ‘education can solve a lot of the ills of the world,’ which I fervently believe. I tell dentists that by supporting dental education at NYU, they will be improving the educational environment in New York City and around the world. I also encourage them to see for themselves what NYU is doing for the profession by taking advantage of the College’s superb, hands-on continuing education courses and facilities.

“For patients and friends, I have a different message, which is the wonder of NYU -- how far both its undergraduate and postgraduate programs have come, and how NYU’s vision is so special, because it embodies all the energy and diversity and magnificence of New York City. New York City is the greatest city in the world and NYU is the city.

“Today’s NYU is recognized for greatness across its schools, and I want people to know that they can be part of something great by supporting the University. I tell them that it’s an opportunity to create a legacy for themselves and their families and to get to know some of the most important thought-leaders and philanthropists in the world.

“When you give a gift to any NYU school, there’s no limit to the number of people who will benefit. With specific regard to people being helped by the NYU College of Dentistry, I say, ‘ Come to NYUCD and see for yourself what the College does for the people of the City of New York.

“Look around you,’ I say, ‘everything is absolutely first-class. And that’s not always the case at a teaching institution. But it is the case at NYU. No matter what the patient’s financial circumstances, there are never compromises made with regard to the quality of care they receive. Equally important, everyone -- professors, students, and staff -- has a positive, friendly, welcoming attitude. While it’s not a private practice, the staff makes it feel like a private practice. I tell people all the time that if they have the time, and need a lot of dental care, NYU is the place to go.

“I also talk about the importance of the private sector in supporting research to improve patient care, and I tell people about the cutting-edge research being conducted at the NYU College of Dentistry to make new and better dental materials and techniques available to consumers.

“Ultimately, I try to make people see NYU and its College of Dentistry the way I do, as a very special place. Physically, it’s very large, but everyone feels like they’re part of a small, close-knit family. Just as my father did for me, I want others to understand that they have an important contribution to make; that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to support a cause you believe in; and that a gift in support of education will never be wasted. I’m lucky that I was given the opportunity to support NYUCD and I feel honored to be part of the greater NYU community.”