Providing Students with Comprehensive Dental Care for More Than 100 Years
Health and dental care were always important to Milton and Catherine Hershey. When the Hersheys created the Hershey Industrial School with the Deed of Trust in 1909, it specified how the students would be cared for and that “due regard shall be paid to their health.”
The original Board of Managers included Dr. U. G. Risser who was esteemed by all who knew him. His knowledge of medical requirements enabled him to offer the Board sound advice concerning the physical needs of growing boys.
In 1911, Milton Hershey hosted visitors to the school and the Hershey Press reported, “The school has made great progress during the last year and the visitors were impressed with the work that is being accomplished there. The boys are all in the best of health and have done good work in school.”
Along with health and medical services, the Hersheys were committed to providing every student with comprehensive dental care. See how the program has grown over time!
A Focus on Dental Care
Dental care has been an important part of the school’s health services since its founding. The first dental work was performed by W. E. Vallerchamp, D.D.S. and his wife who were from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Early school records show that Vallerchamp made four examinations of the boys’ teeth each year and performed this service “free of charge, at his own offer, he having proposed that if the school would pay his trolley or railroad fare and buy the needed supplies he would give his services free.”
When the early experimental chocolate factory was renovated in 1917 and transformed into a school building, it contained an infirmary and dental clinic. The 1926 school catalog described the dental department in great detail with the assurance that “everything is done to preserve and retain the teeth and have the mouth in as perfect condition as is humanly possible.”
Expanding Dental and Orthodontic Services
When the time came to expand dental services for the school, Mr. Hershey went to someone he knew: his personal dentist in Lancaster.
Dr. Herbert K. Cooper became director of the school’s dental clinic in 1934. Dr. Cooper’s son, Dr. John A. Cooper, remembers his father saying that Mr. Hershey lost some teeth from eating caramels, and that his father made Mr. Hershey’s first dentures.
The school’s dental clinic featured state-of-the art equipment such as a clinical camera unit where improved changes in the facial outline could be clearly observed. Dr. Cooper visited the school one day a week for the students’ dental care and remained at the school until 1952, organizing and developing an extensive dental program.
In 1952, his son took over the leadership of the dental department until 1970. In 1981, the school’s orthodontic practice was passed back into the Cooper family when Dr. Andrew Long, grandson of Dr. Herbert K. Cooper, began providing orthodontic care for students.
A Modern Approach to Dental Services
Today, Milton Hershey School continues to provide high-quality dental care for the entire student body of more than 2,000 students. Our dental team helps students establish a regular treatment routine and a long-term appreciation for dental health by providing dental exams, X-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings, extractions, crowns, bridges, and dental sealants.
Learn more about Milton Hershey School’s comprehensive dental care.
Milt Memories History Blog
MHS Department of School History works hard to preserve the Hersheys’ values and students’ cherished memories through articles, photos, interviews and artifacts. Follow along with our monthly blog series focused entirely on the fascinating school history and inspiring work of our founders.