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More Frank Talk

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 Frank.'"

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 Men" (FTM).

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."
Class of D'72

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