by Arthur J. Crosta, D.M.D. ('67)
As a professor, Dr. Frates was enigmatic, inspirational, and demanding. At times, we had no idea what he had in mind or how to respond to his queries and comments. He was the teacher, the guidance counselor, and the prefect of discipline all wrapped up in one. However, he was also the concerned parent, the loving father who was an inspiration to all who have had the good fortune to know him. Today, the Coach, an active octogenarian, is living in San Diego, Calif. Nonetheless, his spirit still permeates the halls of NJDS. He was - and still is - a wonder.
Drs. Alan Vella ('61) and Mimi Vella ('63) have kept in touch with the Coach over the years and recently visited him at his home. The Beacon is pleased to share the Coach's story, derived from his conversations with the Vellas and old newspaper clippings, as a two-part article.
Captain Frank E. Frates, Jr. (U.S. Navy, Ret.) began a lifelong love of the sea as a 6-year-old living in Hawaii. At 16, living in sight of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, he went to sea with the Merchant Marine. He served as a cadet officer on the USS President Monroe. During his tenure with the Merchant Marine, young Frank spent some months in the Shanghai shipping office along with his sea duty. Coincidentally, the ship owner he served under had been a patient of his father's, a physician and director and chief of surgery at Queens Hospital in San Francisco. "I matured with the sea as my master during those years with the Merchant Marine," recalls the Coach. "A number of years later I attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the University of the Pacific) and earned my dental degree in 1933."
After graduation, the young Dr. Frates joined the U.S. Navy to become reacquainted with the sea. "In 1936, I participated in a 10-day nationwide examination with 947 candidates. The exam consisted of a three-day physical along with written tests in all the sciences and practical exams in gold foil and amalgam restorations.
Harris Silverstein would have loved my gold foil," says the Coach. "In addition, there was an oral exam on world affairs. I was one of 12 dentists who received commissions at the completion of these examinations."
His military career brought Dr. Frates throughout the Pacific,
where among other duties, he served as head of the Naval Dental
Unit and director of the Enlisted and Intern Training at the
Naval Dental School, part of the National Naval Medical Center
in Washington, D.C.
Lieutenant Frates was commended by the chief of the Bureau
of Medicine and Surgery for outstanding service as a dental officer
during and subsequent to the enemy attack. He had substituted
for the absent medical officer, providing treatment for the many
wounded. "The chaos of trying to save the injured is still
vivid in my mind," recalls Dr. Frates. "It was a horrifying
yet awe-inspiring experience."
At another time during Dr. Frates's naval career, the State Department sent him and two other officers to Argentina for one month as advisors. Says the Coach, "On our return, we were summoned to the White House by President Truman, who congratulated us on our trip and read a letter from the Argentinean ambassador." An excerpt from the letter stated, "In one month, these officers did more for our country than my entire staff did in one year."
Dr. Frates's story, including highlights of his years at NJDS,
will appear in the Fall issue of the Beacon.
*Editor's Note: The students who matriculated at New Jersey Dental School and its predecessor, Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry, from 1956-1970 experienced firsthand the care and guidance of "the Coach," Dr. Frank E. Frates, Jr. Those who passed through NJDS after "Fearless Frank" retired have heard all the stories about this legendary professor. His title was Director of Clinics, but he was the de facto leader of the institution.