UB receives $1 million to establish Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology

Two men shake hands in an office.

Sunstar Group Chairman Hiroo Kaneda (left) shakes hands with late UB professor Robert J. Genco (right) in 2003.

By Megan Ross

Release Date: October 26, 2020

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“Dr. Genco guided Sunstar’s research and development at UB and we sincerely appreciated his longterm support, friendship and trust. He holds a special place in our hearts. ”
Mayumi Kaneda, Sunstar Foundation director

BUFFALO, N.Y. – In honor of the late Robert Genco, DDS, PhD, a longtime professor and prolific researcher in the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine, multinational oral health care company Sunstar Group has donated $1 million to establish a new endowed fund in Genco’s name.

It’s a fitting tribute to the 40-plus year partnership Genco spearheaded for UB with the Japan-based Sunstar, which has led to numerous pioneering advancements in periodontal health.

“Dr. Genco guided Sunstar’s research and development at UB and we sincerely appreciated his longterm support, friendship and trust. He holds a special place in our hearts,” said Mayumi Kaneda, 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. 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.”

“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,” says 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.

“I’m very thankful to UB and the Sunstar teams, I know they loved Bob and respected his work and his life and they all pitched in to make this happen.”

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 may also serve as a liaison between UB and Sunstar to continue Genco’s research legacy.

The endowed fund established by Sunstar also is part of the innovative State University of New York (SUNY) Scholars of Excellence program, a giving incentive program funded by SUNY that supplements philanthropic investments to create endowed chairs and professorships and enable SUNY institutions to fill these roles more expeditiously.

Two men shake hands in an office.

Sunstar Group Chairman Hiroo Kaneda (left) shakes hands with late UB professor Robert J. Genco (right) in 1986.

A SUNY Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Periodontics and Microbiology, Genco passed away 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 described him as the “father of oral science.”

“I had the honor of being a student and colleague of Bob’s for 40 years,” said Joseph J. Zambon, DDS, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “I also had the good fortune to work with many outstanding young researchers from Sunstar early in my career. 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.”

“Endowed faculty positions are critical to UB’s goal of becoming a top 25 public university, so we are deeply thankful to Sunstar for their generous investment in our institutional mission,” said Rodney Grabowski, vice president for university advancement. “Our faculty research and scholarship are among the hallmarks of UB and this is a gift that directly celebrates those attributes.”

The school anticipates that the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair will be appointed within the next year.

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