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The Amazing Life of Dr. John Manhold

by Dr. Mimi Vella ('63)

The fictional character Walter Mitty dreamed of a fascinating life for himself; Dr. John Manhold is living one. From yachting to sculpting, academics to athletics, and now, at age 80, playing classical guitar, the former chair of the Department of Oral Diagnosis and Pathology has charted a life course of versatility and accomplishment.

Dr. Manhold was born and educated in Rochester, New York, where he excelled academically and athletically. He played many sports, including soccer, wrestling, and golf; while at the University of Rochester, he participated in boxing, football, and fencing.

A member of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine's Class of 1944, Dr. Manhold worked his way through dental school as a waiter and a short order cook. He also made money as a boxer, fighting as a middleweight in clubs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The pay started at $50 per fight, but eventually, he earned up to $400 for an appearance in the ring­the latter amount represented one entire year's tuition. However, the boxing days came to an end when Dr. Manhold sustained a severe injury ­a torn trapezius muscle.

Fortunately, boxing was a way to earn money and not a career. After receiving his DMD, he applied for a Carnegie Fellowship in medical pathology and received his certificate in 1945. Soon after, Dr. Manhold was called to active duty at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland. He spent some time at sea as a dental officer, but, because of his fencing background, was re-assigned to the training center to help teach knife fighting. Rather than pursue a military career, the Marine lieutenant opted to return to civilian life to teach at Tufts University. He was an instructor in pathology and director of the cancer program there.

But Dr. Manhold, who remained in the active reserves, was called back to military duty during the Korean War. He was assigned to Pearl Harbor as an assistant force dental officer and head of alcohol and narcotics inventory for the Fleet Marine Forces of the Pacific. From there he went to Pensacola, Florida, as a research pathologist at the Aviation Psychology Laboratory. He resigned from active duty in 1954 and became assistant professor and chairman of the Pathology Department for the Washington University Dental School in St. Louis.

It was while Dr. Manhold was at Washington University that he met with Father Michael Fronczak, who recruited him for a fledgling dental school, Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry. "When I was being interviewed, Father Fronczak said, 'You are not Catholic'," Dr. Manhold recalls. "I replied, 'If that does not bother you, I don't mind.'"

And that was the beginning of Dr. Manhold's 31-year association with New Jersey Dental School. He received an interim appointment at the school in 1956, but the next year was named professor and director of Pathology and Oral Diagnosis. His distinguished career included serving as secretary to the executive faculty and as associate dean for continuing education, but his work always centered on diagnosis and pathology.

"Diagnosis undoubtedly is the most vital aspect of all dental and medical practice," he maintains. "If there has been a misdiagnosis, the finest therapy obtainable is useless. Correct diagnosis, in turn, is impossible without a thorough and exact knowledge of pathology."

Dr. Manhold also has a strong interest in psychosomatic dentistry. It was, in fact, the subject of his first book, which in the late 50's was subject to professional scorn. Today, as science has come to acknowledge and respect this specialty, Dr. Manhold has been recognized as a leader in the field. He is a Fellow in the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine and has been president of that organization.

The dentist accrued several honors during his career, including the President's Award from the Alumni Association of UMDNJ in 1980 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Harvard University in 1989. He has even received a letter of appreciation from the Japanese House of Representatives for a program he facilitated between NJDS and Japanese dental schools.

Dr. Manhold may be one of the few dentists to win international acclaim for both his academic accomplishments and his artwork. While recovering from the boxing injury as a young man and forced to "take it easy," he became interested in sculpting and soon did a bust of himself and other pieces. Since then, Dr. Manhold has won numerous awards for his sculpting, including first prize in Paris in 1969 for a bust aptly titled "Torso."

Many of Dr. Manhold's works are displayed in private collections. Mrs. Lawrence Rockefeller selected one of his sculptures to be displayed in the lobby of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, and to the best of Dr. Manhold's knowledge, it is still part of the hospital's permanent collection. His media are stone, clay, or wax, the latter two cast mostly in bronze. He taught at Ringwood Manor in New Jersey for a time and could have made sculpting a very lucrative profession.

When Dr. Manhold retired from NJDS in 1987, he and his wife of 28 years­Enriquta (he calls her Kit)­ loaded his artwork and priceless mementos aboard a new, 42-foot trawler and set out for St. Petersburg, Florida. The couple planned for life at sea for many years. Dr. Manhold took all the navigational courses available, obtaining Captain's Papers and 100-Ton Master's Papers, while his wife obtained a U.S. Tower Squadron certificate and a license as a diesel truck mechanic.

After moving to Florida, the Manholds joined the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and become even more involved with boating­cruising extensively through the Ten Thousand Islands, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

Ultimately, the couple decided to tackle the "Big Wheel," a 6,000-mile loop beginning in Florida, moving up the East Coast, over to the Great Lakes, back down the Tombigbee (waterways from Chicago on down to the Gulf of Mexico), and then back to Florida. During their six-month voyage, which began in April 1989, they met with some surprises: 52-knot winds in Norfolk, Virginia; 35-knot winds in Manasquan, New Jersey, accompanied by 15-foot waves; and 26 days of rain and storms during the month of May. Rain and fog plagued them for much of the trip, but the Manholds safely achieved what many other yacht enthusiasts only read about.

Today, Dr. Manhold spends at least two hours a day in a consulting capacity. His studies pertain mostly to oxygenation of red blood cells and the oxygenation's benefits on superficial and deep cuts and burns. For leisure, he and his wife­both accomplished golfers­take to the green. They have played in many tournaments, such as the Mazda International and the Pasadena Senior Championship. The octogenarian also has recently taken up the classical guitar.

Over the years, Dr. Manhold has proven the old adage wrong: It is possible to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of them, too


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