Friday, August 03, 2007

Dental hijinks, and a farewell

Researching a question for a patron this afternoon, I took another look at some of the old issues of The Datter, a student newsletter published by the North Pacific College, precursor to the modern OHSU School of Dentistry.

The patron was looking for information on a 1924 graduate, and the May 15, 1924 issue of The Datter does indeed list all the graduates. Interestingly, it includes a short phrase or note after each name, a sort of character description of the student in question. So, we have, for example:
Alexander, Peter G.--The fightin' fool.
Arnold, Joseph E.--Old Joe, the druggist. Can sell anything from kodaks to cough syrup.
Bunker, Ivan R.--Mighty good student, but he shouldn't try to sing.
Deering, Ralph A.--Good looking, with a better looking wife.
Franks, Israel R.--Frequently displays racial characteristics. [!!??]
Johnson, Raymond E.--Lots of knowledge, little intelligence.
Smith, Francis Fabian--Ninety-nine operations in ninety-nine minutes.
Recognize any types that you remember from your school days?

We also some sad news about an old friend from the Dental School: Gene Bauer, former associate dean of business affairs and professor emeritus, passed away on July 31. In her oral history interview, Gwynn Brice Dockery notes that Bauer was the one to push for automating the patient billing system here, but it was Dean Lou Terkla, D.M.D., who recounted the now-familiar story of Gene and the gold:
ASH: Now, I mentioned that Dr. Bluemle told a story, when we did his oral history, about his being accused by the Chancellor of dealing in gold futures. And Dr. Bluemle, when he received this phone call, was quite surprised and shocked and didn’t know what it was about, and then he said, “Aha. This must have something to do with Lou Terkla.” He called you. And what was the story?

TERKLA: Well, the story was that the School of Dentistry utilizes a lot of gold because we do a lot of gold work. We make a lot of gold crowns and gold bridges and gold inlays and so on. And, of course, as part of our purchasing procedures, we had to buy that from the gold manufacturers, or the people who made the ingots that we used and melted down to make the crowns. And we would put in a supply for the following year.

Now, we were on a biennial budget, and part of the biennial budget was that they put a biennial budget limitation—the Legislature did—biennial budget expenditure limitation on us. And that expenditure limitation means that you have to project how much money you’re going to earn and how much money you’re going to spend during the biennium to run the Dental School and the Dental School clinics, and that projection then becomes your limitation. And the limitation means that if you find that you’re in a situation where you’ve got to spend even one dollar more than what you projected and what the limitation was set by the Legislature, you had to go back to the Emergency Board and request permission to spend that dollar.

Well, that was always very restrictive, and what happened was that, unbeknownst to me as well, our Business Manager did a double purchase on gold for one year, and as a result of the double purchase on gold he went over the expenditure limitation of the School of Dentistry. And immediately the red flag goes up in the Governor’s Office and with the Emergency Board of the Legislature that an institution has violated the biennial budget expenditure limitation, and that started the big inquiry. And the telephone lines were hot and heavy.

And so when Mr. Bauer, Gene Bauer, who was the Business Manager at the time, was called about it, I guess by a budget analyst at the Governor’s Office, or maybe somebody in the—I think it was the Governor’s—I think it was the budget analyst either in the Legislative Office or the Governor’s Office, called him. He said, “Well, look. Gold prices have gone up so high.” I mean, they were, what, up to six-, seven hundred dollars an ounce. He said, “It turned out to be a pretty good move because we saved a lot of money.” And immediately they translated that into, “Here’s a guy speculating on the gold market” [laughter]. And it wasn’t speculation on the gold market, it was an honest mistake on his part by ordering twice, which pushed us past the biennial budget expenditure limitation, and his response was, “Well, gee, don’t worry about it, because we’re going to save a lot of money as a result.” And as soon as he says we’re going to save a lot of money as a result, they think he did it on purpose and was speculating on the gold market. Well, eventually that was resolved to the satisfaction of everybody.

ASH: It makes a good story.

TERKLA: [Laughing] They accepted our explanation, which was true. We did have a lot of gold we had to stash away [laughter]. Incidentally, we were burglarized. Burglarized several times with our gold. We used to keep the gold in the safe at the Dental School, and burglars got in there and they just went right through that safe with their torches and everything and took all the gold we had in there. It was right after that we changed the gold storage situation to a bank vault. And the times that the person who issues the gold from the student store goes and gets it will vary from week to week, time to time, and so on, so that nobody can track that.
Well, after a long an eventful career here at OHSU, Bauer retired in 1980. Little did I (or probably many others here) know, but he wasn't done: he went on to another career, as a private investigator, of all things--a career he practiced successfully until he finally, really, truly retired just this past year. Maybe he got the idea of the job switch from guarding all that gold!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, I am Carol Jenkins, and I was the librarian for the Dental School at the time this story took place. The Dental Library was right down the hall from the Deans Office. I think I would have been nervous had I known all that gold was stashed in the safe there! Gene Bauer and Lou Terkla were both good friends, and great supporters of the library. Thanks so much for sharing this story. And congratulations on your award, too!

Sara Piasecki said...

Carol: thanks for sharing your perspective on Gene Bauer and Dr. Terkla--and the physical proximity of the two storehouses of treasure at the Dental School, the gold safe and the library. Potential thieves were probably unaware of some of the really wonderful rare dental titles in the library, which would have been just as hot on the market, and a lot lighter to carry!