First chair to support program, honor mentor

Dr. A. Omar Abubaker will be the first Bear Chair and the first chair within the VCU School of Dentistry.
Dr. A. Omar Abubaker will be the first Bear Chair and the first chair within the VCU School of Dentistry.

An endowed chair is one of the highest forms of recognition provided by a university to an individual, and the VCU School of Dentistry is proud to officially announce its first endowed chair – the S. Elmer Bear Chair. At its September meeting, the VCU Board of Visitors approved the chair, established with funds totaling $1.1 million.

Previously, the Bear Chair was an endowed professorship within the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. On the thirtieth anniversary of Dr. S. Elmer Bear’s passing, with the leadership of Dr. A. Omar Abubaker, professor and chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the guidance of the VCU School of Dentistry Development Office, several alumni renewed the commitment to honor and preserve the memory of a revered practitioner, educator and mentor. To aid the fundraising effort, Andrea Bear, Bear’s daughter, produced a video tracing his life, his work at VCU and his impact on his chosen profession, which introduced him to a whole new generation of oral surgeons and VCU alumni. The chair will support the residency program’s continued development through recruitment and retention of the best and brightest faculty and residents.

Bear served from 1960 to 1981 as the first chairman and founder of the OMFS residency program. He made a name for himself nationally and internationally and devoted himself to his profession, his fellow oral surgeons and his residents, whom he affectionately thought of as his family.

“The VCU School of Dentistry always meant a lot to Elmer and it meant a lot to me too. Many of our best friends were other oral surgeons from across the country and abroad,” noted Barbara Greenberg, Bear’s widow.

Dr. S. Elmer Bear, 1921 - 1981.
Dr. S. Elmer Bear, 1921 – 1981.

Bear’s children also spent a considerable amount of time at the dental school and around the medical campus. One of Bear’s sons, Dr. Donald Bear, recalled, “We all grew up at MCV, having our turn at making rounds with Dad, so it’s a special connection.”

Another of Bear’s sons, Dr. Harry Bear (M.D. ’75, Ph.D. ’78), grew that connection into a career. Inspired by his father’s passion for patient care, he pursued a medical education and now serves as chairman of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the VCU Massey Cancer Center and professor of surgery and of microbiology and immunology at the VCU School of Medicine. “As a VCU faculty member, this honor of the Bear Chair is especially gratifying,” said Dr. Harry Bear.

“We always knew that Dad’s first love next to his family was his work,” shared Andrea Bear. “He loved teaching students and residents the right approach to difficult problems, and he worked every day for what was best for the specialty and to improve the lives of patients.”

What’s so remarkable about the Bear Chair is that it was kick-started by many of the early residents that Bear trained, like Dr. Ronald L. Tankersley (D.D.S. ’68, OMFS ’71) and Dr. Charles L. Cuttino III (D.D.S. ’66, OMFS ’72), but brought to fruition by residents that came long after his tenure as chairman including recent graduates of the program. These alumni and oral surgeons share Bear’s enthusiasm for the residency program and his commitment to ensuring that the program and the department continue to be among the best in the country. The Bear Chair funding to the program will enhance the educational experience of future residents, while forever keeping Bear’s legacy alive.

As department chairman, Abubaker will be named the inaugural Bear Chair at the VCU Investiture event on March 3. “I am honored and extremely privileged to be the first person to hold the honor in the department and the school,” said Abubaker. “And I’m excited to share the news with alumni, friends and the entire specialty.”


To learn more about how ways to support the Bear Chair, please contact Edward G. Kardos at or (804) 828-0324. Check out a video about Dr. Bear at

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