Joseph Gargano’s life-long devotion to UConn began in 1976 when he was a first-year student at the School of Dental Medicine.
“I was supported by great mentors, some of whom still teach at the school,” he says. “They taught me the values of professionalism, ethics, selflessness, and giving back. The School of Dental Medicine is like a big family to me.”
Gargano ’76 (CLAS), ’80 DMD is an active alumnus, serving as the former president of the school’s alumni advisory board. He’s also a generous donor and a long-time adjunct professor at the school.
“I decided that it was going to be my mission to give back to a great institution,” he explains. “I just love the students. I love the sense of family and what the university is doing by training future health care practitioners in the field of dentistry.”
The school recently honored Gargano’s generosity by naming a room in the dental clinic after him and his family, many of whom followed his footsteps to UConn.
Gargano started his own dental practice in North Haven 40 years ago and welcomed his son, Ted Gargano ’15 DMD, to the practice five years ago. In addition, twice a month, Gargano drives from his home in Branford to Farmington to teach an operative dentistry clinic to teach students how to do fillings and provide basic dental care.
“I really enjoy the engagement of the students,” he says. “They are such bright kids, and they have good questions and they really appreciate the sage advice of a dentist who has been in practice for 40 years. The little things, the nuances we learn throughout our years, they find invaluable.”
He also leads students on an annual community service outreach trip to provide dental services to indigent patients in Guayaquil, Ecuador. And he regularly volunteers for the annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic, working alongside students to provide dental care for underserved and uninsured patients.
“There’s a word in Yiddish that best describes Joe Gargano–he is a mensch. He’s just a good, good person,” said Steven Lepowsky, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “In everything he does he exhibits genuine concern, compassion, and integrity. It’s clear he’s been a great role model for his kids that they’ve decided to follow in his path, but he’s a great role model of our students and our faculty.”
His son, Ted, agrees. ““He’s very passionate about what he does. He’s a very kind person and he loves to give back.”
Gargano leads a large legacy family. All three of his children are Huskies. Ted and Jerry, who is currently a student at the School of Dental Medicine, followed him into dentistry. His daughter, Stefanie Parks ’15 MD, and her husband, Christopher Parks ’08 (BUS), ’15 MD, are graduates of the School of Medicine.
In addition, Jerry’s wife, Angelica, is doing her post-baccalaureate program at the School of Dental Medicine and will do her dental residency there. And Gargano’s brother, Ron Gargano ’73 (PHR), is a graduate, too. Gargano’s wife, Maryjo, a nurse and case manager at Yale New Haven Hospital, is the only non-Husky, having graduated from Saint Anselm College.
When he’s not at work or volunteering at UConn, Gargano likes swimming, fishing, and boating on Long Island Sound and cooking for the family.
“My favorite recipe is just making a big pot of what we call Sunday sauce and inviting the family over for pasta and sauce, meatballs, and sausage. It’s just a good occasion to get together.”