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Week of January 9, 2012

Staff Spotlight

School of Dentistry clerk by day, firefighter by night

Whether working his day job at the Dental School or serving as a firefighter, Jeremy Towler is a man many depend on for things large and small.

The inventory control clerk at the School of Dentistry oversees shipping and receiving lab cases, sorts laundry, tracks invoices and more.

Photo by Eric Bronson, U-M Photo Services.

“I’m responsible for the computerized tracking and distribution of the commercial dental lab cases for all students and faculty,” Towler says. “There’s a lot of people to keep track of. Students tell me they couldn’t do it without me.”

Towler joined the school in 2000, spending his first year working in the records department. He came to U-M because of the stability that comes with working for the university.

On most mornings on the job, Towler says he experiences a busy spurt around 9 a.m. That’s when third and fourth-year students get out of lectures and line up for fresh, laundered clinic coats and their lab cases in preparation to meet patients. Towler has to make sure that when coats return from the linen service that they are properly assigned by name to students and faculty, and hung on the proper racks. “Sometimes I get up to 200 coats on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he says.

Towler packages students’ lab cases for shipping. These typically consist of tooth impressions that are sent to commercial labs to create crowns, dentures and more. “Anything regarding the labs comes through me and I send it out. I track shipping and receiving for them,” Towler says. Students also see him to get dental instruments, or replace broken ones.

The work is rewarding, especially around graduation time when students thank him for his help. “It’s good to hear, I love having the respect of my friends and my peers,” he says. “I feel I am helping people.”

And serving people doesn’t end with his U-M job. Towler began helping in November 2007 with the volunteer fire department in his hometown, Stockbridge (about 30 miles northwest of Ann Arbor), where his uncle also is a volunteer firefighter. He says he always had an interest in becoming a firefighter.

“I love what I do,” he says. “The people are fun to be around. (I love) the adrenaline rush.”

When Towler’s neighbors throw a community bonfire, they often call him up, jokingly, to make sure he’s on hand in case the fire gets out of control.

Towler says the Stockbridge Fire Department, like most in the country, is exclusively staffed by volunteers who receive a small stipend per call. “For me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the pride I feel while serving the people of my community,” Towler says. He carries a pager with him and responds to calls on nights and weekends, so he can work around his schedule at the School of Dentistry.

His wife Heather’s father and brother both were firefighters. Their 10-year-old son, Joshua, also is involved, hanging around the fire station and helping wash the trucks. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be following in my footsteps when he gets of age,” Towler says.

Towler completed training in 2009 to work structure fires. It’s these fires, he says, that help with team building among the firefighters.

Towler also is involved as head adviser with Explorers, a program through the Boy Scouts for 13- to 21-year-olds interested in public safety. His role is to teach them about fire safety. He also says he encourages them to get involved with firefighting while they are young, and not wait as long as he did.

Like the students he works with in the dental school, Towler says he’s always learning with each emergency call that comes in to the fire station.

“It’s something new every time,” he says. “I try to make it a learning experience. No two fires are ever the same to me.”

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Jeremy Towler, inventory control clerk, School of Dentistry, volunteer firefighter, on performing his day job: “There’s a lot of people to keep track of. Students tell me they couldn’t do it without me.”