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There’s no question the rigors of dental school are just as demanding today as they were 50 years ago. While dentistry has changed in so many ways the past 50 years, the tight bonds developed between classmates remains a constant. Set to have their 50-year reunion in 2022, the Class of 1972 may be the tightest of them all.

Members of the class of 1972. “We basically spent our first two years together in all classes. Many of us lived in dorms then fraternity houses together. We became a family,” said Dr. Bobby Connor. Nowadays, a dental class is at least 50 percent female. That was not the case in 1972. “We didn’t have any women in our class, so we were probably closer because we could be in fraternities, and we had basketball, football, and softball teams in the UAB intramural league”, said Connor. “The best parties on campus were also at the dental fraternities.”

The academic classes were structured a bit differently back in 1972. The entire class met for the first two years, taking foundational courses such as histology, biochemistry, and gross anatomy. It wasn’t until the third and fourth years these future dentists would learn in a clinic setting. Back then, classes were Monday through Friday and exams were 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. According to Connor, they also bonded in the dental laboratory. “The dental labs were open at night, so we were up there together at night our junior and senior years. We all had to do our own lab work.”

The bonds formed then are just as strong if not stronger 50 years later. It’s a common occurrence for five or more classmates to have dinners, attend football games, vacation together across the globe, and go on fishing trips. One special event they’ve been holding since the early 1990s is a shrimp boil hosted by Dr. Day Gates II and his wife, Linda, at their vacation home in Orange Beach, AL. While they have gradually opened it up to select members from other classes and a lucky few School of Dentistry faculty and staff, there is a regular group who attends most years. They include Dr. Connor, Dr. Ben Cumbus, Dr. Charles Black, Dr. John Flowers, Dr. Joel Hearn, and Dr. Rey Gaubert. The sights, smells, and tastes of the boiled shrimp, potatoes, corn, and other vegetables would delight any food aficionado. Gaubert, a Louisiana native and long-time resident, is the chef. Prior to dental school and his career in endodontics, Gaubert starred on the football field and even played a while for the LSU Fighting Tigers.

“My daddy was a cajun and he taught me how to boil shrimp. I’ve got a special way of doing it. It’s become a tradition,” said Gaubert. Added Hearn, “It’s hard to believe when we met for that first time back in 1968 that we would become so close. This class means as much to me as any group.”

Five members of the class of 1972 posing in front of an American flag 72, trees and mountains in the background.With their reunion looming next February, there are a lot of good times to remember. On the flip side, they have also weathered some difficult times. Some classmates, their spouses, and families have passed away or endured illnesses or personal tragedies. Through those troubled times, these classmates come together to support one another. “The losses have been tough. We support one another. We have a grapevine (to communicate). If something happens, we are in touch through email or on the phone,” said Dr. Connor.

Perhaps the one story that illustrates how the Class of 1972 bonded in dental school revolves around their statistics course. Apparently, the instructor was more than unfair and disliked by all. The class was determined to protest his methods by intentionally failing an exam. As the story goes, the exam was multiple choice and everyone in the class agreed to answer every question by selecting option "A". As a result, the faculty member failed every member of the class and they all received a failing grade on their permanent record. “The individuals in that class went on to be quite successful within the profession and in their personal lives, so I think failing that class wasn’t a big deal, but it showed how close we were,” said Connor.

Earlier this summer, several classmates gathered at the North Carolina vacation home of Bobby and Jan Connor. There were a lot of the usuals there, but the group also included a classmate who hadn’t been around much since graduation. Several of he classmates hiked up a nearby mountain. Dr. Joel Hearn remembered wiping the sweat from his brow, “I was determined. We were out breath, but we were determined.”

Determined appropriately describes the Class of 1972. They were determined to graduate together. They have been determined in life, and they have been determined to stay together through the years.