Dedication beyond measure: Dugoni School professor celebrates more than five decades of teaching
For more than five decades, Professor Robert H. Christoffersen ’67, the longest serving faculty member at University of the Pacific, has made innumerable contributions to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and its students.
He was honored for 56 years with the school at a luncheon held June 21.
“Dr. Christoffersen has played a significant role in our 126-year history of success in many ways, including through his leadership in the clinic, with the state board and as our first executive associate dean,” said Dean and Vice Provost Nader A. Nadershahi ’94.
“Dr. C,” as he is affectionately known, began teaching just weeks after his own graduation from the dental school. He has served as instructor, professor, founding group practice administrator, director of clinics, associate dean for clinical affairs and executive associate dean during his lengthy tenure.
"He has given his heart and soul to our mission, values and success, and we applaud his lifelong contributions,” said Craig Yarborough, associate dean for institutional advancement.
A dedicated, right-hand man to former Deans Dale Redig and Arthur A. Dugoni ’48, he embraced any challenge, regularly putting in 12-hour days to bring their revolutionary ideas and acclaimed visions to life. Two of his significant accomplishments were enhancing the school environment by helping launch the humanistic approach to education and implementing the three-year curriculum.
In 1989, then-Governor Pete Wilson appointed Christoffersen to a position on the Dental Board of California.
“I served a full nine-year term including one year as the president of the dental board,” Christoffersen said. “This position gave me a different view of dentistry. I was shocked by what I learned about the profession through the work of our enforcement division. I was also fortunate to work with some very special people while on the board, including Drs. Steve Yuen ’56 and Roger Simonian ’73, as well as Ms. Georgetta Coleman, the executive officer at the time.”
Beyond being a gifted dentist and teacher, Christoffersen envisioned and implemented dozens of projects.
“Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Dr. C oversaw every school improvement project with his fine eye for design and perfection in the details,” said Joanne Fox, director of the Dugoni School's alumni association.
Colleagues referred to him as the “dentist-architect.” While he had no formal training in architecture or design, he had a clear vision. Christoffersen completed rough drawings and led design teams through many improvements including creating the first large lecture room, reimagining the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic, updating the extramural facility in Union City and creating the Dental Hygiene and Advanced Education in General Dentistry Clinics on the Stockton Campus.
“He was largely responsible for creating the ‘Ritz-Carlton’ of dental schools in style, along with cutting-edge, pre-clinical simulation labs, patient clinics and advanced classrooms,” said Craig Yarborough ’80, associate dean for institutional advancement.
His true calling, though, is teaching. “The students keep me young,” he said. While serving as a teaching assistant at San Francisco State University, he taught a physical science class to Peace Corps trainees and found it so satisfying he vowed to spend his life in education.
“He continues to share his vast wisdom and experience with our students ranging from the Doctor of Dental Surgery program to our International Dental Studies doctors and our dental hygiene students,” Yarborough said.
Christoffersen made a lasting impression on many students including Aouse Khalil ’11, an instructor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dentistry.
“Dr. Christoffersen was the main reason I considered academia,” Khalil said. “He took time to understand each student’s particular learning style. Seeing his passion for teaching inspired me to become an educator, which has been very fulfilling.”
Christoffersen is also a generous donor to the school, creating an endowment of more than $1 million for the Dr. Robert H. Christoffersen Endowed Professorship in the Department of Preventative and Restorative Dentistry.
“While Bob often displayed a veneer of distant professionalism, he has given his heart and soul to our mission, values and success, and we applaud his lifelong contributions,” Yarborough said.