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    December 13, 2006
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Temple unveils The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry

The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Maurice Kornberg grew up  in South Philadelphia before entering dental school at Temple University.

Like many Temple students at the time, he was the first in his family to go to college. And Kornberg worked his way through as many Temple students do, with jobs at the old Sun Shipyard and Philadelphia Transportation Co. trolley. After graduating in 1921, he dedicated himself to the dental profession.

Maurice Kornberg in a 1921 yearbook photo
Temple University has named the School of Dentistry in honor of Maurice Kornberg, shown above in a 1921 yearbook photo. Kornberg is the father of Madlyn Abramson, who with her husband, Leonard, has given a $10 million gift to the school for student scholarships.

His only child, Madlyn Abramson, remembers that he also instilled the importance of honesty, independence and education in her.

Unfortunately, Kornberg died young, at the age of 60, and didn’t get to witness the magnificent contributions his daughter and son-in-law would make to medical research and higher education.

To honor his memory, Madlyn Abramson and her husband, Leonard, have given a landmark gift to his alma mater. In recognition of this $10 million gift, which will go to student scholarships, Temple’s School of Dentistry has been named The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry. It’s the largest gift in the school’s history and the first time a U.S. dental school has been named in recognition of a philanthropic gift.

“It was a great accomplishment for my father to get through school; that’s why we really wanted the money to go to scholarships for students in need,” said Madlyn Abramson. A modest man, he’d be very proud, she thinks – and probably incredulous – to see the school named his honor.

Unlike today, dentistry was not a high-paying field in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s when Kornberg was in practice. It was long before people had dental insurance, and fillings were $2 apiece.

For many years, Kornberg voluntarily ran the dental clinic at the former Mount Sinai Hospital at Fifth and Reed streets, where as a little girl Madlyn would wait for him to finish work.

“It was very important to my father to do something that was helping and healing,” she said. He also had practices in Center City and South Philadelphia.

Extremely devoted to his family, Kornberg was generous and kind, with a good sense of humor, she recalls.  

Madlyn Abramson | The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry
At the ceremony to celebrate the Abramson's gift and the dental school's naming, Madlyn Abramson (standing) extolled Temple's tradition of providing access to quality education.
(Photo by Joseph V. Labolito / University Photography)

“Unfortunately, my children didn’t have the chance to know my father. But my husband knew him well and was very fond of him.

It’s his gift to me to honor him in this way, something that our children and grandchildren can be proud of,” Abramson said.

The gift will make a big difference in the lives of future dental students, said Temple President Ann Weaver Hart.

“We are extremely thankful for the Abramsons’ incredible gift.

The School of Dentistry fills a critical need in Philadelphia and the region, supplying highly qualified dentists throughout the Philadelphia region and providing dental care to our North Philadelphia community,” Hart said.

The Temple gift is the latest act of philanthropy from the Abramson family to many worthy institutions. Through The Abramson Family Foundation, which is dedicated to healthcare, education, human services and the arts, Leonard and Madlyn Abramson have generously supported numerous organizations including internationally renowned research centers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Johns Hopkins University.

Leonard Abramson, who grew up in Philadelphia, received a B.A. from Penn State University, a B.S. from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and a master's in public administration from Nova University. He is the founder and former chairman and CEO of U.S. Healthcare Inc., which he built into one of the nation's largest and most successful managed-care organizations before selling it to Aetna in 1996.

A former public school teacher, Madlyn Abramson is emerita trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, where she received both her undergraduate and master's degrees in education. She also currently serves as chair of Penn's Cancer Research Institute, is a member of Penn's Graduate School of Education Board of Overseers, the Penn Medicine Board, and the Trustees' Council of Penn Women. Additionally, she is a trustee of the American Friends of Hebrew University and Germantown Academy and a former trustee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute.

The Abramson Family Foundation is now directed by daughter Judith Abramson Felgoise, a Temple alumna. Daughters Marcy Abramson Shoemaker, also an alumna, and Nancy Abramson Wolfson serve as trustees for the foundation.

Founded in 1863 as the Philadelphia Dental College, Temple’s School of Dentistry is the second-oldest dental school in continuous operation in the United States. Its Hospital for Oral Surgery opened in 1878 – the first hospital in the country devoted exclusively to oral and maxillofacial surgery. The school became affiliated with Temple in 1907, and moved its location to the Health Sciences Center on North Broad Street in 1947.

“The gift will benefit students for years to come and will enable us to become the dental school of tomorrow today. We are most appreciative of the Abramsons' generosity,” said Martin Tansy, dean of the school.

- By Eryn Jelesiewicz

 

 


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