In honor of the late Robert Genco, a longtime professor and prolific researcher at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine, Sunstar Group has donated $1 million to establish an endowed fund in his name.
It’s a fitting tribute to the more than 40-year partnership Genco spearheaded for UB with the Japanese oral healthcare company, which has led to numerous pioneering advances in periodontal health, according to the school.
“Dr. Genco guided Sunstar’s research and development at UB, and we sincerely appreciated his long-term support, friendship, and trust. He holds a special place in our hearts,” said Mayumi Kandea, Sunstar Foundation director.
“He was a visionary with science and technology, and our chairman, my father Hiroo Kaneda, is a visionary with business and society. The two had a special bond,” Kaneda said.
“Together with UB, we hope this funding will help the dental profession better and more widely interact with the medical industry and bioinformatics for the improvement of global public health,” Kaneda said.
“I was so pleased when I heard the news, and all I could think of was how proud Bob would be to receive this honor. Bob believed in inspiring and encouraging people through recognition of their hard work,” said Genco’s widow, Frances.
“I hope when people hear about this endowed chair, they will honor what Bob stood for and will uphold his beliefs, not just about science, but his optimism and genuine interest in people and his warmness as a human being,” she said.
“I’m very thankful to UB and the Sunstar themes. I know they loved Bob and respected his work and his life, and they all pitched in to make this happen,” she said.
The Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology will be a new faculty position that recognizes and supports faculty who are not only gifted teachers, but also scholars, researchers, and applied learning innovators and who facilitate medical and dental collaboration in oral biology and periodontal medicine in the School of Dental Medicine.
The holder of the chair also may serve as a liaison between UB and Sunstar to continue Genco’s research legacy, the school said.
The endowed fund also is part of the SUNY Scholars of Excellence program, a giving incentive program funded by the State University of New York that supplements philanthropic investments to create endowed chairs and professorships and enable SUNY institutions to fill these roles more expeditiously.
A SUNY Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Periodontics and Microbiology, Genco died in March 2019. He also held previous roles as UB Microbiome Center director, Department of Oral Biology chair, and UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach vice provost. The Journal of Dental Research called him the “father of oral science.”
“I had the honor of being a student and colleague of Bob’s for 40 years. I also had the good fortune to work with many outstanding young researchers from Sunstar early in my career,” said Joseph J. Zambon, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and dean of the School of Dental Medicine.
“The more than 40-year collaboration between Sunstar and UB culminating in the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology is a fitting tribute to the person who shared chairman Kaneda’s vision and made it a reality,” said Zambon.
Rodney Grabowski, vice president for university advancement, said that endowed faculty positions “are critical to UB’s goal of becoming a top 25 public university,” so the school is deeply thankful to Sunstar for its generous investment in UB’s institutional mission.
“Our faculty research and scholarship are among the hallmarks of UB, and this is a gift that directly celebrates those attributes,” Grabowski said.
The school expects to appoint the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair within the next year.