Distinguished Achievement Award

Maj. Gen. (Ret) Thomas Robert Tempel, Jr., DDS ’91Maj. Gen. (Ret) Thomas Robert Tempel, Jr., DDS ’91

This award honors a graduate for significant professional accomplishments in science, dentistry, or education. In recognition of his leadership, service to country and profession, mentorship, and dedication to patient care, Maj. Gen. (Ret) Thomas Robert Tempel, Jr., DDS ’91, is the 2024 Distinguished Achievement Award honoree. 

“Throughout my 27 years of active duty in the Army, I learned the value of teamwork and what can be accomplished when people are inspired by a trusted leader,” said Tempel, associate dean for Extramural Clinical Practices, East Carolina University (ECU) School of Dental Medicine. In this leadership role, he oversees senior dental students and residents throughout the school’s network of eight University-owned Community Service Learning Centers and 16-chair dental clinics located in rural and underserved communities across the state of North Carolina. 

Tempel also serves as a Diplomate of the Federal Services Board of General Dentistry and the American Board of General Dentistry and is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is an active member of several organizations including the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Education Association, Military Officer Association, Association of the United States Army, Association of Army Dentistry and Army Special Forces Association. 

After graduating from Gettysburg College in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Tempel earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1991 from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD). In 1992, he completed a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry program at Fort Jackson, S.C., and in 1998, a two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency at Fort Bragg, N.C. He also earned a Masters in Strategic Sciences in 2007 from the U.S. Army War College.  

While a student at UMSOD, Tempel served as third-and fourth-year class president and was a member of the Gamma Pi Delta Prosthodontics Honor Society. He also received the Nathan David Gold Memorial Award, which recognizes a senior who has shown the greatest empathy and understanding for patients during clinical practice, along with awards in recognition of his work in removable prosthodontics and care for patients with special needs.  

Upon graduating in 1991, Tempel entered full-time service in the U.S. Army Dental Corps. He held assignments with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the U.S. Army War College, and several Special Operations units, in addition to leading medical and dental units throughout the United States and Europe. Tempel was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Dental Corps in 2014 and continued in this role until his retirement in 2018. 

His leadership and service has received wide recognition. Tempel received the David B. Kriser Medal in 2016 from New York University Dental School, its highest form of recognition, and two Presidential Citations in 2017 and 2018 from the American Dental Association. In addition, he received several military awards from the Army including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star. 

Working on interprofessional teams throughout my career as a clinician and leader engrained the need for dentistry to be part of primary care,” Tempel said. “Helping our future dentists understand the value of organized dentistry and mentorship will ensure our profession maintains high ethical standards while serving the health needs of the community.” 

Tempel met his wife Kathy while at UMSOD and has one daughter who is a third year dental student at ECU and on an Army HPSP Scholarship.  He shares the pride of being a UMSOD graduate with his brother Carl (DDS-94) and gives credit for the values he developed to his parents and two generations of dentists and leaders in his family before him.