Dr. Michael Till begins his interview by describing the trajectory of his education and early career, including his experiences in: the Navy; at the University of Iowa; at Eastman Dental Center in Stockholm, Sweden; at the Royal Dental College in Aarhus, Denmark; at the Arabian America Oil Company (ARAMCO); with Operation Crossroads in Dahomey, West Africa; and at the University of Pittsburgh. He then discusses his recruitment to the University of Minnesota and the building of the new Dental School facilities in 1969 and 1970. He describes his responsibilities as chairman of Pediatric Dentistry, his work to initiate the International Exchange Program, and his time as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow. Focusing on the Dental School, he covers the following topics: the culture of the dental school; student unrest in the 1960s; the relationship between dentistry and dental hygiene within the school; debates regarding manpower within dentistry; the Mobile Dental Clinic and the Hibbing Dental Program; the relationship between the School of Dentistry and University Hospital; the role of Pediatric Dentistry in the bone marrow transplant program; state and federal support for the School; the School’s efforts around water fluoridation; and the creation of the Academic Health Center (AHC) and the inclusion of the Dental School within the AHC. Dr. Till also describes Dr. Lyle French’s tenure as vice president of the AHC; the tenures of Drs. Erwin Schaeffer, Richard Oliver as deans of the School; retrenchment, strategic planning, and the reorganization of the school; the No Cavity Clinic; the changing demographics of dentistry; the potential for a two-track tenure system; his work in the creation of the Ectoderma Dysplasia Center; the pediatric dental program at Hennepin County Medical Center; the tenure of Dr. Richard Elzay as dean; and the threatened closure of the Dental School. He concludes with a discussion of his relationships with the vice presidents of the AHC, his time as dean, and his work with Project HOPE.
Michael Till grew up in Independence, Iowa. After completing some undergraduate work, he entered the Navy and was assigned to be a dental technician in Kingsville, Texas. He earned his dental degree in 1961 and his specialty degree in pediatric dentistry in 1963 from the University of Iowa. He then spent one year at the Eastman Dental Center in Stockholm, Sweden and two years at the Royal Dental College in Aarhus, Denmark, where he was also appointed chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. He joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh where he also earned his master’s and Ph.D. in education in 1970. He joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1969 and served as chair of Pediatric Dentistry. In 1982, he founded the School’s No Cavity Clinic. He served as President of the Minnesota Dental Association in 1988 and 1989 and as dean of the Dental School from 1996 to 2000, when he retired.