Penn’s School of Dental Medicine traces its history back to the 1850s and the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, the Dean of which established the School of Dental Medicine as the University’s Dental Department in 1878. But it was the construction of the Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute, dedicated in February 1915, that defined Penn’s emergence as a leader in the field of dental education. An event heralded by the local press as the “greatest in dental history,” the opening of the Thomas W. Evans Building marked the beginning of Penn Dental Medicine as we know it today, with the impressive Gothic structure providing a well-outfitted and elegant home for the Dental School ever since. 

Tuesday, February 24, marked the kickoff of the yearlong centennial commemoration of the building, punctuated by key events and celebrations. But as Penn Dental Medicine spends the next year celebrating the history of the Evans Building, it looks to the outfit the building for the next 100 years: The Evans Building Centennial Renaissance is a $34 million, two-year plan to transform the building into a state-of-the-art facility capable of taking Penn Dental Medicine to the next level of excellence and innovation.

To address the emerging pedagogic, technology, and infrastructure needs of modern students, the plan calls for the complete overhaul of the library and preclinical laboratory and student areas, as well as the addition of a new modern clinic. The new library will feature third-floor study carrels, a second-floor reading room, and comfortable seating banquettes overlooking the grand staircase. Most importantly, this reimagined library will accommodate the ever-changing needs of the modern student, providing spaces for both quiet study and group work, expanding digital resources, and providing access 24 hours a day. 

A cutting-edge preclinical laboratory and continuing education training center will feature fixed benches with ample room for tabletop projects and as many as 90 high-tech student workstations, and a 65- to 70-chair clinic will create an easily accessible, self-contained area of the building in which patients will experience the highest level of care. 

Moving to the Evans Building will be the Advanced Simulation Laboratory, which contains 12 Simodont virtual reality units that employ haptic technology and provide a highly realistic experience through which students can develop manual dexterity and preclinical skills.

For more on the Evans Building Centennial Renaissance, watch the video

Many of the centennial commemoration events focus on the Evans Building Centennial Renaissance project. Every Tuesday through February 2016 will be #ThomasEvansTuesday, during which Thomas Evans will be engaging Penn Dental Medicine students, faculty, staff, and visitors on social media, reflecting on our history and generating excitement about the upcoming Evans building transformation. In June, an Evans Exhibit Preview Display will be available in the Schattner Building. Starting in July, the Evans Centennial Art Exhibit will bring to the Arthur Ross Gallery more than 150 objects from the Evans collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and objets d’art from the French Second Empire period, collected by Evans from his patients which included most of the crown heads of Europe. Additionally, a ceremonial “Wall-Breaking” is scheduled for November 4.

For a complete listing of Penn Dental Medicine events, visit the events calendar.