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Week of July 8, 2013

Faculty Spotlight

Love of ceramics inspired career in dentistry

Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

When the Ann Arbor Art Fair returns July 17-20, Dr. Stephen Stefanac will be back behind a potter’s wheel, his hands forming wet clay, showing kids and adults how pots are made.

“I have a lot of fun with that. I really want to educate people about the process,” says Stefanac, associate dean for patient services at the School of Dentistry and member of the Potter’s Guild.

He’ll have added responsibilities this year as president of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the fine arts group that founded the 54th annual event. “I’ll be working with the executive director to make sure the fair runs smoothly,” Stefanac says.

In the Ingalls Mall area, he will work with volunteers in assorted roles, with board members of his fair group, and possibly with city officials.

Just east of Ingalls Mall at the School of Dentistry, “We’re working to really become patient-centered. If you treat your patients well everything rolls off of that,” says Stefanac, clinical professor of dentistry, Department of Oral Medicine/Pathology/Oncology. Meanwhile, his textbook “Treatment Planning in Dentistry,” used in a majority of dental schools in the United States, just got approval for a third edition, he reports.

His introduction to dentistry came as a boy in Dearborn whose love for the bubble gum that came with baseball cards landed him in a dentist’s chair. Stefanac didn’t care for his first dentist, so when he went to Dr. Bill Gregory he was struck by his joyful approach. “He was a great guy, he always seemed like he was having fun.”

Stefanac decided to be a dentist by high school, when a counselor suggested that ceramics might be a good elective, as dentists and artists both work with porcelain. The counselor was right. “I just love 3-D art. The arts and crafts movement also inspires me. There’s really a strong mix of art and function,” Stefanac says.

His skills were honed through six years working at Cedar Point, creating functional stoneware. “I enjoy making something you use every day,” he says: bowls, pitchers, vases, coffee cups and teapots. “I do a lot with porcelain. I like the thinness of it, the way glazes are portrayed,” Stefanac says. He and wife Sherry Cogswell, healthcare audit manager with University Audits, “test them and occasionally break them,” he says, smiling.

To keep the Art Fair together for years to come, Stefanac says, “We need to be very creative attracting new and different artists. Keeping the fair fresh and exciting is very important.”

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


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Stephen Stefanac, associate dean for patient services at the School of Dentistry, on what inspires him: "I am genuinely inspired by our students. They are extraordinary people — talented, motivated and eager to learn."


Noam Chomsky: “Language Use and Design: conflicts and their significance,” 7 p.m. July 11, Rackham Auditorium, part of the 2013 Linguistics Institute.

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