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1954 Time Capsule Contents Revealed!

Friday, September 7, 2012 - 9:42am


John O'Black lifts items from the time capsule and hands them to Dr. John Valenza.

As John O'Black pulls items from the time capsule, Dr. John Valenza describes them to an audience of students, employees, alumni and visitors at the "reveal" ceremony Friday. Alumni Association Executive Director Tricia Fullerton lined the items up for display. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer. 

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Contents of a 1954 time capsule belonging to The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston were revealed in a special ceremony at the Denton A. Cooley, M.D. and Ralph C. Cooley, D.D.S. University Life Center on Friday, Sept. 7. Approximately 250 guests, including members of the UTSD Classes of 1954, ‘55, ‘56 and ’57, gathered to see what was inside the lead-lined, marble cube.

Originally, the time capsule was placed behind a marble panel on an exterior wall near the entrance to the dental school’s then-new “Dental Branch Building” at 6516 M.D. Anderson Blvd. The panel’s prominent location changed, though, with a remodeling project that moved the entrance and expanded the library, so that the “1954” panel became an inside wall with a portrait over the panel. In time, everyone forgot it was there.

When the School of Dentistry moved to a new facility in May 2012, a library worker found the panel, and eventually it was confirmed to be the “face” of a 1,500 pound marble cube. With great effort, the lid was pried open and an independent observer confirmed that that the lead-lined container appeared to hold time-capsule items.

To preserve the surprise, no one else looked at the materials until the Sept. 7 ceremony.

Wearing white gloves, John O’Black, director of the school’s graphic services, carefully pulled the items out of the capsule. John Valenza, DDS, dean of the School of Dentistry, inspected and described the items to the audience. Tricia Fullerton, executive director of the UTSD Alumni Association, then carefully lined up the items on a table so that guests could get a closer look.

A scrapbook filled with photographs, a curriculum guide, a February 1955 edition of the Houston Post, a guide to tooth shades and even a copy of the pilot edition of Texas Medical Center News Services were among the items inside. A map, administrative letters, a list of grades and other documents also marked the significance of the time.

While “1954” is engraved on the front of the time capsule, judging from the contents, it appears to have been sealed in 1955.

As its previous home on M.D. Anderson Boulevard is set to be demolished soon, the 1954 time capsule preserves an important piece of the school’s history.  Near the end of the ceremony, Valenza announced plans to fill and seal a new time capsule later this year to mark 2012 as another special year in the School of Dentistry’s 107-year history.