Dr. Ronald Borer | A Living Legend

By Marianne Sampogna Jacobson

Dr. Ron Borer, former associate dean for clinical services, has been an upbeat inspiration to Dugoni School of Dentistry students and alumni for decades. “His dedication to education is well known and he is fondly regarded as one of Pacific’s ‘living legends.’ He encouraged students to reach their potential while maintaining student dignity, respect and self-esteem,” said the late Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni ’48, dean emeritus, on the contributions Borer has made to the dental school. 

Borer strove to know each student individually, including their unique strengths and development areas. His students remember his lessons decades later. Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte’86, president-elect of the California Dental Association, shared, “Dr. Borer taught me to always remain calm when procedures aren’t going as planned. He taught much more than just clinical skills. He was one of my greatest ‘cheerleaders’ and one of the many reasons I can say I loved dental school!” 

Born in Ohio, Borer “played just about every sport in the world.” He parlayed his love of sports into a college football career at Xavier University where he graduated in 1957. He then attended Loyola University Dental School in Chicago, graduating in 1961. His family dentist in Fremont, Ohio, Dr. Nunemaker, inspired Borer to pursue dentistry and became Borer’s mentor. Borer spent a great deal of time with Nunemaker and his wife at their dental office learning how they ran their practice and managed a healthy, work-life balance. 

After dental school, Borer joined the U.S. Navy. He was stationed in San Diego, California, where he was trained in the specialty of endodontics. In 1968, Borer returned to Cincinnati and built a thriving practice over 10 years, where he thoroughly enjoyed caring for his patients. Borer also had a passion for working with students and began teaching at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Borer was satisfied with his private practice but realized he loved teaching even more. 

Thus, when dental school classmate Dr. Jim Pride, an associate dean at Pacific’s School of Dentistry, asked Borer to join him in San Francisco to launch a new strategic teaching initiative, he was intrigued. It took coaxing from Pride, but Borer finally accepted. Together, in 1971, they helped launch the most significant curricular program in the school’s history. Borer was one of the group practice administrators to implement the comprehensive patient care model, a core part of the current Dugoni School of Dentistry education and now the gold standard for clinics everywhere. Dr. Richard E. Fredekind, former associate dean for clinical services, summarized Borer’s lasting impact: “For years, the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry has been well known for the strength of its clinical programs. Dr. Borer was instrumental in developing and nurturing this image.”

Borer contributed to the dental school in many ways, helping create the new core team structure, teaching for nearly 30 years and founding the Ronald F. Borer Endowment for Endodontics. For his outstanding contributions and service, he was recognized with the Alumni Association’s Medallion of Distinction in 1998 and the University’s prestigious Order of the Pacific in 2001.

According to friend and colleague Dr. Joseph Schulz, “Ron is unselfish with his time and gave genuine care to students during his long career at the Dugoni dental school.” Schulz emphasized Borer’s devotion to teaching, sharing that he learned the incoming students’ names before the first day of school to address them personally from day one. Students were impressed and this gesture led to an impactful student-teacher relationship. Echoing that, Fredekind remarked, “Paying attention to how Ron worked with people taught me so much about education and helping people reach their full potential.” 

As well as being a superlative instructor, Borer has a fun side and a contagious laugh. He hosted an annual beer and hot dog social for first-year students at a local pub to celebrate the completion of the required pre-clinical endodontic lab block, which became a much anticipated gathering for students and faculty to socialize. 

Another alumnus, Dr. James D. Stephens ’82, admiringly recalled, “Dr. Borer was a significant presence in the dental clinic. He was a steady instructor with a gentle manner who gave clear and succinct instruction. His many years of teaching and distinguished service helped the Dugoni School of Dentistry become one of the most respected dental schools in the world.” 

Borer fell in love with the wine country and bought a home in Sonoma in the 1990s, where he currently resides. Since his retirement in 2000, he has played lots of tennis and golf and has had many memorable outings with friends and Dugoni School of Dentistry alumni with whom he stays in touch. Borer expressed delight that his own dentist, Dr. Philip Gruell ’72, is a former student. Reflecting on his choice of profession, Borer is completely content. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be anything else.” 

Marianne Jacobson, BA, MBA, is a freelance writer from Marin County.