At the 118th Annual Alumni Meeting in March 2017, Dean Nader A. Nadershahi ’94 announced the creation of the Dr. Frank A. Brucia Loyalty Society. “In recognition of Dr. Brucia’s 50 consecutive years of philanthropy, we are creating this donor society in his honor to acknowledge consistent giving to the dental school,” Nadershahi told attendees at the plenary session. “It is a fitting way,” he continued, “to observe Frank’s 100th birthday. He has given to our school every year consecutively for half of his lifetime.”
Alumnus Frank A. Brucia ’44A is glad to share a lifetime of learning experiences with the Dugoni School of Dentistry family. It might be a little lesson in the Italian language or what makes a great cup of espresso (dark and sweet). You might hear what makes a great dental practice or learn about consistency in philanthropy. He may also tell you about his happy 69-year marriage to his late wife, Helen. Brucia, at 100 years of age, speaks from experience and from the heart.
A first-generation American, Brucia was born in San Francisco on March 23, 1917 to an Italian family who had moved to the West Coast for business in wine and olives, and to contribute to the founding of the San Francisco Opera. He wanted to be a chemist. Even as a student at Galileo High School, he enlisted his friends to sign up for a summer course in chemistry at University of San Francisco; he remembers how the kind nuns brought them cookies and how much he enjoyed chemistry. His father suggested, however, that he was better suited for an occupation where he could be self-employed. After graduating from University of California, Berkeley, Brucia tried dentistry by attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry).
“I didn’t love dentistry at first,” Brucia reveals, “but the more I practiced, the more positive I became and then I saw it as a beautiful profession.” With World War II in progress, upon graduation in 1944, he and his classmates were inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps as first lieutenants—the war effort needed dentists. Brucia was eventually sent to Florida, where he met his future wife, Helen Marie, a dental assistant from North Carolina. When his war adventures took him overseas, he was doing prosthodontics for the U.S. military in Japan, an assignment he was told “did not exist on paper” (translation: no funding) in a tiny, ill-equipped lab and a jeep that also “did not exist on paper.” The war ended; Brucia was discharged and married his sweetheart Helen at the Presidio in San Francisco. Three children, Kristina (Davis), Ric Brucia and Dr. Jeff Brucia ’88, followed.
The early days, however, were not easy, as Brucia delights in recounting. When he and Helen began planning and setting up his private practice in the Dante Building at 1606 Stockton Street in North Beach, it was difficult to make ends meet. In fact, he reports that for the month of November 1946, his practice earned a mere $6.50. He couldn’t make the rent. He went on the road with a mobile dental unit, treating the children who lived in migrant worker camps in the Sacramento Valley. He enjoyed the work and paid the bills, while Helen was setting up appointments and expanding the practice back at the office.
As Brucia’s dental practice began to thrive, as it does to this day under the guidance of his son Jeff, he became more and more involved in prominent dental organizations, most notably the California Dental Association (CDA) and the San Francisco Dental Society (SFDS). In April, the SFDS dedicated the Dr. Frank A. Brucia Meeting Room, honoring him as a former board member, president, trustee and delegate to CDA, as well as substantially contributing to the acquisition, set-up and remodeling of the building that the SFDS calls home.
Brucia began his relationship with the Dugoni School of Dentistry, then known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, 77 years ago. His support for the dental school has been amply demonstrated over the years by his donations of time, talent and treasure, earning him the Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Medallion of Distinction in 2000. In addition to giving to the Dugoni School consecutively for 50 years, he unequivocally loved interviewing prospective students as a member of the Admissions Committee and continued to do so as a retiree until it became too difficult to hear well enough. The decibel levels of older dental drills and other equipment Brucia used back in the day had taken their toll.
What words of wisdom or lessons does Brucia have to share as a centenarian? He laughingly says, “Always have 25% children as your patients. It perpetuates your practice and you can send the challenging patients to a pediatric specialist.” It also ensured that dozens of grateful former patients were around to appreciate and recognize their beloved Dr. Brucia with cards and notes on his 100th birthday. On a more serious note, Brucia iterates what he has told generations of students, “Don’t limit yourself to the curriculum. Go beyond the requirements.” His ideal is to “pursue perfection, and then you’ll achieve excellence. Always chase something beyond your reach.”
Brucia is supremely modest about his history, saying “I was not a super dentist, but I achieved the maximum I could with my skills, and always tried to do more.” To look at his many contributions as a dental professional, a business leader, a father and husband, Brucia has more than achieved excellence.
The basis of donor recognition in the Dr. Frank Brucia Loyalty Society is 10 consecutive years of giving to the Dugoni School of Dentistry and $50,000 lifetime total giving. Associate Dean for Development Jeff Rhode explains, “We want to recognize our alumni and friends who have given generously and faithfully over time as well as a lifetime of giving, and Dr. Frank Brucia has provided a shining example of how that can build over 50 years of philanthropy.”
If you would like information about membership in the Dr. Frank A. Brucia Loyalty Society, please contact Anita Ayers, manager of the Annual Fund, at email@example.com or 415.929.6402.