Dentistry dean position filled temporarily

by Joel Sawyer

Dr. Michael Till, a professor in the Department of Preventive Sciences, will assume the interim deanship of the School of Dentistry today.
Till, a faculty member at the University for 25 years, takes over for Dr. Richard Elzay, who stepped down June 30. Elzay resigned after serving as dean for the last 10 years. Till said he was excited about the new opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an interesting challenge,” he said.
Academic Health Center Provost Frank Cerra selected Till for the interim position. The nomination was approved by the Board of Regents on Thursday. Till will serve as dean until a permanent replacement is found later this year.
Cerra said Till has the experience and skills necessary to lead the School of Dentistry until a permanent dean is found.
Till is the former president of the Minnesota Dental Association and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association. He received his dental degrees from the University of Iowa and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pittsburgh.
He was recruited away from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970 to head the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University. Till resigned from that position in 1990 and has concentrated on teaching since then.
Till is also a consultant with international health organizations such as “Project Hope” and has organized dental education programs in Portugal, Denmark, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
He was approached as a potential permanent candidate for the deanship but said he has no intention of applying because of his age.
“I’m at the point in my career where I simply do not plan on remaining active for that length of time,” he said.
Till, 61, said it would be more appropriate to have a dean who could serve for five to 10 years, adding that he plans to retire in three or four years. “There’s life after the University of Minnesota,” he said with a laugh.
Although Till will only serve on an interim basis, he said his term as dean comes at a critical time for the School of Dentistry and the health center.
“It’s going to be my responsibility, and certainly my challenge, to see that the University of Minnesota measures up to the challenges that are going on in the Academic Health Center, and in the health care marketplace,” he said.
Till said the restructuring effort underway at the health center and the impending Fairview Health System-University Hospital merger agreement are essential for the continued success of the University.
“The only constant is change,” he said. “The restructuring is a reflection of the attempt on the part of the Academic Health Center to move forward creatively and position itself as best it can to serve the state of Minnesota,” Till said.
He added that restructuring the health center is critical, considering the decreased funding of universities over the past few years.
“All schools are facing potential financial problems,” Till said. “This is a nationwide phenomenon. The era of having unlimited resources to support education is long gone. We all have to tighten our belts and look for creative solutions in order to maintain the educational enterprise.”