by Arthur J. Crosta, D.M.D. ('67)
In the Spring 1999 issue of the Beacon, a glimpse was given
of the early career of Dr. Frank E. Frates, Jr., the "Coach."
Part Two of this series traces the legendary professor's path
to New Jersey Dental School.
Dr. Frank E. Frates, Jr., served more than 20 years with the
U.S. Navy. It was not only a career, but the source of his nickname.
Along with his military assignments, he coached basketball and
funneled a number of his players off to colleges after their
service was completed. He was known then, and now, as the "Coach."
The 1956 American Dental Association meeting in Washington, D.C.,
was a turning point in Dr. Frates's life. As he addressed the
FACD meeting, many dental school administrators in attendance
were mesmerized by the magnetism of the young coach. From this
meeting came numerous offers to teach and/or join the administration
of various dental schools: the University of Iowa, St. Louis
University, Georgetown University, and New York University (just
imagine the Coach at NYU!). He turned them all down. "I
wanted the challenge of a brand new school, or else I was going
to stay in the Navy," recalls the Coach.
And so Dr. Frates accepted the offer of Dean Merritte M. Maxwell
to join the faculty of the fledgling Seton Hall College of Dentistry.
"Monsignor Fronczak introduced me to the charter class in
February 1957. The students had been in attendance for about
six months when I arrived," says Dr. Frates. "When
Monsignor left the room, I heard from the back, 'J.C., it's Fearless
One member of this first class had been in the military and knew
of Captain Frates's reputation. It was quite a surprise for him
to see the Coach in this new role. After singling out Bob "Curly"
Lawrence ('60), the Coach told the class, "While I'm in
charge, you men are going to eat, dream, and work dentistry for
the next three-and-a-half years. You will become the best dentists
east of the Mississippi. You guys will smash the East Coast."
Three-and-a-half years later, the Class of 1960 made history.
At this juncture, Dr. Frates was head of the Department of Restorative
Dentistry. He would go on to be the director of clinics and,
in fact, control virtually all facets of the dental school. His
methods were pure military. The students wore all white with
everything meticulously pressed. There was a high price to pay
if your white shoes were scuffed. Your dental kits had to be
spotless, and the drawers of each student's kit had to be arranged
identically. Cleanliness, discipline, and professionalism were
to be maintained at all times. He was not a man who could be
questioned, and you never crossed him. He was the drill instructor
of his dental recruits.
Some "Fratesisms" are still fresh to the memory:
"If you don't have time to do it right, when are you going
to have time to do it over?" And it is just as true today
as it was 20 to 30 years ago.
"There are no short cuts to good dentistry." Another
truism that maintains its validity through the years.
Some have questioned his methods, but few would question his
results. Most were proud to call themselves, "Frates Trained
Dr. Frates retired from NJDS in 1970. He and his wife, Florence,
live in San Diego, Calif., and play a lot of golf. At one time,
the Coach was a scratch golfer.
Lately, Dr. Frates has become philanthropically involved. He
donated two stained glass windows to St. Michael's R. C. Church
in his diocese. The Coach also made a sizable donation for the
construction of a classroom at his high school called the Frates
Memorial. The donation is in honor of his parents. His father,
Dr. Frank Frates, Sr., graduated from the school in 1899; the
Coach, in 1927.
As with everything he has done throughout his long life, Dr.
Frates has approached his retirement and philanthropic endeavors
with zeal, enthusiasm, and total dedication. This is the legacy
he instilled in his students. The plasma of the alumni of NJDS
is permeated by this man's persona. Truly, those who learned
under his tutelage are FTM.
What Some Have Said About the Coach
"Powerful, dynamic, efficient, competent, influential,
and productive...By dint of his energetic personality, the ideals
of proper professional conduct, competency, and leadership will
become the permanent code by which Seton Hall men will live in
their community and dental society."
Hudson County Dental Society Bulletin, April 1957
"As our teacher, he has come to know and understand our
problems. As an administrator, he has taken definite steps toward
their resolution. As a dentist, he has contributed to the development
and refinement of our professional skill and integrity."
Dedication of the 1963 Clinician
"Part of the job of a Coach is to build a sense of unity
among his players. With this unity comes confidence in oneself
and in one's team. We feel we're a strong team; we've never been
stronger and we thank you for this. It's a great feeling we have,
knowing that someone is working as hard for us as we are for
ourselves. Not only have you been a great Coach, but you've also
been like a "Dutch Uncle" to us all; giving advice
when you deemed it necessary, always looking to make us better
men. For this we thank you."
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Class of D'72