Dr. Hanley to become Dean of UNE College of Dental Medicine

In 1972, James Hanley sat in an auditorium full of fellow first year dental students. As they went around the room introducing themselves and what undergraduate college they came from, the new student began to be intimidated.

 Dr. James Hanley at the TUSDM Faculty Reception at Yankee Dental Congress 2014

Many of his classmates had come directly from undergrad, had come from Ivy League schools and other large, prestigious colleges. Hanley, on the other hand, had taken time off after graduating from Assumption College, a smaller institution in his native Worcester, and had been doing construction work for the past year.

“I remember sitting there, thinking ‘Well, I’ve been out a year, I’ve forgotten everything I know, I don’t know how to study anymore,’” he said. “I was thinking ‘I don’t belong here.’”

The fact that James Hanley would ever feel like he didn’t belong at Tufts University is laughable now. Dr. James Hanley has been with TUSDM almost continuously since that first day in 1972 – as a student, postdoctoral resident, faculty member and administrator. Much of his life has been spent in this building – he even met his wife, Marian, who was a student at the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene, during his second year of dental school here. His work here will come to its conclusion at the end of March, when he leaves Tufts to accept a position as Dean of the University of New England’s (UNE) College of Dental Medicine in Portland, Maine.

“Dr. James Hanley’s career has been inextricably linked to Tufts University School of Dental Medicine since 1972,” Dean Huw Thomas said. “We deeply appreciate his service to our School and his many contributions to our educational programs and clinical operations.”

Dr. Hanley graduated from the first three-year DMD program at Tufts in 1975 and returned to complete a residency in Periodontology in 1979. He worked as a volunteer faculty member at Tufts until 1986, then returned in 1993 and became a half-time faculty member that September. He was appointed as a full-time faculty member in 2000, and will leave Tufts as an Associate Professor. Though he also maintained a private practice in Concord, Mass. until 2006, he said his joy in working with students is what kept him interested in faculty roles.

“Being with young people is the lifeblood,” he said. “They keep you on your toes. And the wonderful thing about being in the learning environment is you’re learning more than you’re giving in some ways.”

Dr. Hanley has also been an asset as an administrator in several roles for the school, most recently serving as Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. During his first administrative role as Director of Periodontal Clinic Administration, he was asked by the then Executive Associate Dean Patricia Campbell to join the implementation team for Axium in 2003.The project, which took over a year and a half to complete, was tremendous challenge, and one of the things TUSDM staff and faculty remember him for.

“Working on the Axium project might be my favorite memory of him,” said Maureen Lombard, former Director of Clinical Affairs. “He would work hard to contribute to the development of the system content but he also helped lighten up times when the group was getting weary of all the hours and tasks.”

Campbell, who is now Tufts Executive Vice President, said Dr. Hanley has been a stalwart supporter of technology enhancement at the school, and added that his extensive experience and rapport with colleagues makes him an incredible asset.

“Dr. Hanley is incredibly engaged with people,” said Patricia Campbell. “He loves to be part of a team, and he brings energy and ideas to whatever group he works with. He’s been a real gift to the school.”

When asked about his accomplishments, Dr. Hanley doesn’t mention a project but more of an overall sense- a sense of having served the people he works with and for.

“The greatest achievement is to think that you had some positive influence on of the faculty, staff and students over the years that you’ve interacted with. To think that you have a small piece of their success,” he said. “In private practice, you have one patient at a time, and that’s tremendously rewarding, but to think you can have some influence on the wider populace is very special.”

Now Dr. Hanley will be teaching and shaping his colleagues and students in Maine. He joins several other Tufts faculty who went on to become deans at other dental schools, including former TUSDM Professor and Dean Howard Mitchell Marjerison, who became Dean of the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in 1940, and former Dean Joseph Volker, who founded the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in 1949. UNE’s dental program is very new; it’s very first dental class just started in September, and Dr. Hanley said he is looking forward to a new adventure and establishing the culture of professionalism and practice at UNE. He’s even found a place in Portland where he can row, a longtime passion of his. But he adds that it will be difficult to leave his comfort zone at TUSDM, his home for so many years.

“I didn’t go into dentistry thinking that I would end up where I ended up,” he said. “I didn’t have any grand plan. As opportunities came along I looked at them, and took a risk at some point to pursue them. Tufts allowed me to grow, and develop the new skills and learn. There was always opportunity here to grow professionally. And all the foundation I have, was provided to me by Tufts.”