Dentistry Dreams Come True: Ken Clemens

April 17, 2013

Dr. Ken Clemens grew up in Lancaster, Ohio, and entered the Army following high school graduation. There, during World War II, he was assigned to a dental laboratory technical school and paired with a dentist who offered insight about the value of a college education. After returning to Ohio, Ken took his advice by looking into the G.I. Bill and enrolling at Ohio State.

“I discovered that people with a college education got the better jobs and better pay,” Ken said. “So I looked into my options, and I commuted from Lancaster to Ohio State until I got to dental school.”

Ken completed his DDS in 1954 and returned to the service during the Korean War. In 1956, he founded a dental practice in Lima, Ohio. For over half a century, he has been a strong advocate for his alma mater and for The Ohio State University Alumni Association. In 1976, he sat on the founding committee of the College of Dentistry Alumni Society and later served as the president of the board of governors.

Ken also is counted among the first individuals to be recognized by the President’s Club as a charter member in 1963. “Through his hard work and influence, many hundreds of alumni have been encouraged to give back to their university, to be recognized by the President’s Club, and to become members of the dental alumni society,” said William R. Wallace, dean emeritus of the College of Dentistry.

Ken played a vital role in developing Ohio State’s Lima campus, where he was a member of the Lima Advisory Council (now the Board of Trustees). He helped to create a dental hygiene program at Rhodes State College—a degree-granting career education institution that shares the Lima campus—and took an active role in many national and state health and educational organizations, including the American Dental Association and Ohio Dental Association (ODA). He also was a member of Governor Richard Celeste’s Task Force on Health Care Cost Containment and Governor George Voinovich’s Task Force on Higher Education.

“Creating a dental clinic according to the specifications for high-quality instruction required expertise that a campus our size would not have had otherwise,” said James Biddle, former dean and director at Lima. “Ken basically led the effort among Rhodes State College, Ohio State, area professionals, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the Ohio General Assembly. I am not sure if there would be a dental hygiene program on the Lima campus today without Ken.” The well-equipped facility is named the Dr. Kenneth and Jean Clemens Dental Hygiene Clinic.

He has earned many accolades and awards for his commitment to Ohio State and the field of dentistry. Among these are the Distinguished Service Award from Lima Technological College, the International College of Dentists Golden Pen Award, the Ohio State College of Dentistry’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, ODA’s Achievement Award, the Ohio State Alumni Association’s Leadership Award, and the James A. Rhodes State College Honorary Associate in Applied Science Degree. In 2011, he received the Ralph Davenport Mershon Award, presented to alumni who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and service to Ohio State. He also is recognized by Ohio State’s Neil Legacy Society for a bequest to benefit the College of Dentistry.

Recently, Ken decided to establish a fund to recognize John Snyder, dean and director of Ohio State Lima, for his hard work and dedication. John is stepping down in June 2013 to serve as a full-time faculty member in Lima, focusing on health and rehabilitation sciences.

At 86, Ken continues to work part-time in his dental practice. He supervises fourth-year Ohio State dental students in a Lima dental clinic, which cares for the underserved population. “It’s a great experience and fun for me,” he said. “I look forward to it every day.”

A major fan of high school and college sports, he and his wife, Jean, are parents to two adult children. Ken also shares a highlight of his life as the day he bought a house for his mom.

“The people at Ohio State helped me and cared about me,” said Ken, emphasizing the value of access to education for all students. “It wouldn’t have happened at any other place or any other way. I’m eternally thankful.”

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