For the Class of 2012, reunion sparks desire to give back

Members of the DDS Class of 2012 at their 2022 reunion

The School of Dentistry DDS Class of 2012 is special.

Now, every class is special in its own way—but when the Class of 2012 speaks of their time in dental school, there is something magical about it. 

Paul Buck, DDS ’12, recalls the long days and nights of working in the lab, the library and the clinic. “But being with the same cohort of classmates day in and day out, we really got to know each other quite well,” he recalled. “The memories that stick are not so much the exams and studying, but the friendships and experiences with classmates along the way.” 

Stephanie Lee, DDS ’12, similarly stated that her best memories “include getting to know and spending time with our classmates.” Her twin sister, Melissa Lee, DDS ’12, recalled the same late nights as Buck—but “even though school was very stressful at times, it was comforting to know that we were all going through it together as a class. We tried to look out for one another.” 

So when it came time for their ten year reunion, these classmates were excited to spend time with one another and return to campus. In addition to joining the school for Alumni Weekend, the Class of 2012 gathered at the home of Rachel Uppgaard, DDS ’12, OMS ’16, and Brandon Penaz, DDS ’12, Endodontics ’18, for a celebration. 

“It was great getting to catch up with our classmates and their families,” recalled Stephanie, noting that they even video chatted with those who were unable to attend in person. For Melissa, it was a reminder of “how much I missed my classmates.” She noted feeling “nostalgic” for her time at the school, and said it “made me want to have a reunion every year.” 

The reunion helped remind Melissa, Stephanie and Buck of just how special their class—and the School of Dentistry—are. 

In fact, the Class of 2012 was so inspired by their reunion that they decided to band together and join Steve Litton, DDS ’67, in a $10,000 match pledge for the upcoming Give to the Max Day celebration. The match will join donor gifts to provide funds to the Dental School Scholarships Fund. 

The alumni providing the match know just how important scholarship giving is to future generations, and they want to pay forward the gift of education and community they received during their time here. 

“Having spent some time away from Minnesota, I gained an appreciation for how well the University of Minnesota prepared us for practice,” said Buck. “I’m happy to help perpetuate this legacy.” 

And he knows that scholarships are the best way to continue that legacy. “Scholarships lower the barrier to entry for those meritorious and those in need,” he said. “The opportunities provided by scholarships can have a huge impact on recruiting the best candidates to our profession.”

Stephanie agreed, reflecting on her own experience. “I thought back to my own struggles after graduating from dental school,” she said. “It was difficult for me to feel free to volunteer my time to contribute to worthwhile causes knowing I had such substantial debt. I wanted to participate in a program that would allow students the chance to pay it forward, without having to feel the weight of their own financial burden.” 

The Class of 2012 is excited to give back and inspire a new generation of dentists, and they hope that doing so will open up previously unavailable paths to tomorrow’s oral health professionals. 

“My hope is that scholarship giving will afford recipients the opportunity to do the same, and give back in the future,” said Melissa. “Less financial burden will hopefully enable them to more easily fulfill their commitment to underserved populations.” 

Give to the Max Day is Thursday, November 17. Learn more and make a plan to give at