Remembering Dr. J. Daniel Subtelny

Sep. 15, 2015

Dr. Subtelny standing in his offic eDr. J. Daniel Subtelny left us one year ago today, but he will always be loved and remembered.

Check out the video compilation of people who came from around the world to pay respect to the man who meant so much to them.


Other rememberances....  

group photoHe has been in my thoughts so much over the past year.  I am especially remembering his last year on this Earth. What an amazing man, still teaching, travelling and attending meetings, right up to his last day. I miss is warm and kind heart and cherish the memory of him,  and the gift he gave us all, as Dr. Sweet said, – each other! --  Linda Ferruzza

Dr. Robert BrayDan is the longest running chairman of an Orthodontic Program in the history of our Profession. Has won EVERY award possible.  BUT...... most importantly I am so grateful he taught me how to think!  I miss him and love very much! -- Dr. Bob Bray

Not a week or a day goes by without Dr. Subtelny passing through my mind. Usually in the context of an orthodontic patient's case, but he is there nonetheless.  I applied to many orthodontic programs, but Dan (and the faculty) selected me to be an Eastman Orthodontics student, and it was only in retrospect that I came to understand the scope of that blessing.  Of course, this understanding and appreciation grew with time in the program and since.

Dan's influence on our profession cannot be overstated, and has been recounted many times by very notable people in our field and from Eastman.  However, my experience with him was on the personal level as his student - mostly in Hot Seat.  When I think of his tutelage in that seminar room this quote by a favorite fictional character comes to mind, "Your honor, the courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the truth. For all time."  Dan's goal with Hot Seat was to sear the truths of orthodontic thought and diagnosis into our minds (e.g. "Biology before Class of 2007technology - Doctor").  He had to ensure we would not forget the fundamentals later, when we would be on our own buffeted by the many conflicting pressures either practicing clinical orthodontics, or instructing future orthodontists. This was to ensure that we would "T.H.I.M.K. Doctor" - as only a thinking orthodontist would be able to adapt new ideas and technologies while remembering and honoring the fundamentals of biologic tooth movement and dentofacial orthopedics. "I don't care if you use piano wire - just know what you're doing with it and why."  Deep stuff when you really ponder and embrace it.

My classmates and friends from Eastman (faculty and staff included) have often heard me express my gratitude for having been a student there.  I cannot imagine feeling any other way when reflecting on the amazing privilege and honor it was to encounter Dr. Subtelny in my time on this Earth.

Most Fondly,

Roger A. Hennigh, D.M.D.
Eastman Orthodontics Class of 2007
President, EIOH Ortho Alumni Association

I had the opportunity to share a glass of red wine with Dan a few days before he passed. Remarkably, at 92, his enthusiasm for every aspect of life shone so very brightly in his eyes that I assumed he would live forever! His passion and dedication to, and love for his family, his Drs. Spoon, Subtelny, Bellohusenstudents (his extended family!), and his work are exemplary and an inspiration to us all. We will forever be grateful for all he gave to us and he will always live in our hearts! In fact, Dan never really left us, as we hear his voice in our minds each and every day as he watches over us and guides us as we treat our patients. I miss those glasses of wine with him, but I continue to toast him with every glass and take great comfort knowing that he will always remain watchfully and lovingly close. - Dr. Ron Bellohusen

Dr. Subtelny through the years:


Given by  Dr.  Joseph Sweet  ~  Memorial Service  9/27/2014

Good Morning.  Before I begin, we were at dinner last night and I leaned over to Bob Bray and said “you know, when St. Peter comes down to meet Sub at the Pearly Gates…He may get just a little bit more than he bargained for.”   Bob leaned back to me and said “Yea… Sub will say, who’s asking who the questions here, pal?”

sympathy cardHow do you speak about Dr. Subtelny and his life?  There is simply not enough time and I would never have enough words.  It’s like someone telling you to cover up the Empire State Building as you stand there looking up with a beach towel in your hands.  It simply is not going to happen. However, there is one thing I can say.  Dr. Subtelny may have passed away, but me standing up here is proof that his hot seat lives on! So, while there is so much to say about Dr. Subtelny, I thought I could express a few thoughts that may be common to all of us.

FIRSTLY, it is hard to talk about Dr. Subtelny without touching on Eastman as the two have always been synonymous.  He took a chance on most of us in this room.  Some of you were sure things, some were safe bets, others were 50/50.  And some of us were real long shots at best.  And, if you could say we were leaps of faith, when my name came up, he must of felt like Evel Knievel looking at the Grand Canyon with Baker saying “Oh it’ll be fine…we need a project”. No matter which group you fell into, he provided us with an opportunity to become significantly more than what we had been before we arrived at the doors of Eastman.  The house that Subtelny  Built.

I have always felt that Dr. Subtelny had a pure gift.  Not so much as his un-paralleled career as a Chairman, an Orthodontist, a Researcher, or a Writer - these things were developed over time - but rather, I think his gift is the ability to recognize one’s current development, both professionally and personally, as well as the potential of where that person could be.  He then took it on as his personal responsibility to close that gap.  And, he was not worried about being popular while he did it.  Not through lecture or rhetoric or a simple regurgitation of facts that is so often the case in the realm of academia, but rather through his Socratic method of teaching… which forces the student to not only think for oneself under the pressure of relentless questioning, but also properly articulate those thoughts so that a clear understanding can be proven.  Only then would the lesson be put to practice, all the while, under the highest degree of accountability.  He not only made us smarter; he taught us how to become smarter.  In short, he taught us how to think.   Now, during this process as you may remember or can imagine, there were good days and bad days ups and downs as we went through our two years.

Which brings me to my second point -


He gave us wonderful fun memories and stories that will last a lifetime.  Some with him, some with just our classmates, some with faculty,  and some with the whole mix. 

Dr. Subtelny Most of these fun memories will start off with:

Do you remember that year at Subtelny’s Christmas Party…

Do you remember when we all went to dinner that night…

So you remember at the AAO alumni party…..

Like the time we finally were able to get our own bar and didn’t have to share one with any of the other schools?  And Baker and Subtelny said that’s great but … two would be better.  Then there were other times not so much fun and they would start off with “Do you remember that time I got called into Sub’s office… Or remember that time in Hot Seat….

For example, Dr. Subtelny driving home the concept that the two holes on the side of my head were far more important than the hole in front of my face.  He said the idea was for information to go into those holes and hit something before my mouth made a sound.

            Dan’s Hot Seat was really his kitchen table where we had all the meaningful conversations.  Some we didn’t necessarily want to have but were going to have anyway.  It’s really where we grew the most as men and women while we were with him.


Having said all that I did, it brings me to my final thought.  I would like to read part of a thank you letter Dr. Subtelny wrote me shortly after his 50th year celebration.

“I know it comes from the Heart and that is what makes it more meaningful to me.  Many thanks from deep down in my own heart. The atmosphere was nothing short of electrifying.  To see everybody from nearby and far away having such a great time as One Big Family was really a gratifying and heartwarming experience – unforgettable and beyond any scope of imagination.”

He signed the letter “Thanks, Thanks, Thanks -from the heart” Dan Subtelny.

And so, looking back I think the greatest thing that Dan gave us was each other.

Yes, he taught us well.  Yes, we have vivid and colorful memories often with him at the center; yet, the thing I would bet he would be most proud of was that;

WE truly are a family.

I think history has shown, and the future will prove, that this will be most enduring and his true legacy.

In closing...there is an old saying, and I know that it’s been used many times and perhaps even over used, but I think it’s particularly appropriate in describing Dan’s life:

“Give a Man a Fish and you’ll feed him for the day…
Teach a Man to fish and you’ll feed him for life.”

And perhaps only now in heaven, may he finally have a high enough view that allows him to see not only all the people he touched, but also the lives he provided nourishment for.

I think, unbeknown to us at the time, his teaching method, guidance and all the lessons we learned from him would become the very fabric of our blank canvas that we would use to begin to paint our own lives after we left him to go out on our own.  And, while we are living we are all at different places in the development of that painting.  But, we continue to paint it each and every day whether we realize it or not.

hot seat bookWhen I think of Dan in Heaven looking at his final Life Painting I imagine:

  •       His family
  •       Joanne
  •       His Children
  •       His Grandchildren
  •       His closest friends and relationships
  •       All of his un-paralleled career and achievements
  •       Eastman and all of us sprinkled throughout
  •       With him in the center surrounded by all.

And it would be signed: “From the Heart” - Dan Subtelny

I have to believe the Lord has already walked up to him and said:

“Dan, that’s a damn good painting…”

Thank You.