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Professor’s generosity empowers new discovery in the Houston Center for Biomaterials & Biomimetics

Published: March 31, 2021 by Kristin Hoffmeister

Lettering on wall displays the name for the John. M. Powers, PhD, Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics.
The John. M. Powers, PhD, Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics is located on the fifth floor of UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. Photo by Brian Schnupp.
Husband and wife, John and Susan Powers, pose for a photo while at dinner.
Susan (left) and Dr. John Powers pose for a photo while at dinner.
Drs. Rade Paravina and Joe Ontiveros pose for a photo with Dr. John Powers' framed professor emeritus certificate.
Drs. Rade Paravina (left) and Joe Ontiveros accepted Dr. John Powers' framed professor emeritus certificate in December 2020. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

For more than 31 years, John M. Powers, PhD, has been a fixture at UTHealth School of Dentistry. From researching dental materials to founding the Houston Biomaterials Research Center—now known as the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics—Powers has impacted lives throughout Houston through his dedication to research, teaching, and patient care.

“Being with the School of Dentistry is an important part of my life—one that will continue for many years,” Powers says.

Now a professor emeritus at the School of Dentistry, Powers began his dental career as a research assistant at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, where he earned a PhD in mechanical engineering and dental materials. After graduating, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan but found something was missing after many years of service.

“I wanted to pursue new career opportunities in leadership, teaching, and research, and UTHealth offered me exciting new ways to achieve my professional goals,” Powers explains.

At UTHealth, Powers enjoyed a productive scientific career, publishing extensively and serving as department chair and associate dean for research. Among his many memories at the School of Dentistry, his fondest remain the people he met along the way.

“At UTHealth, I was able to work with exceptional students, faculty, and dental experts from around the world,” Powers says. “Many of my colleagues and graduates have become lifelong friends.”

At the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics, Powers served as founding director and developed the center’s research program focused on evaluating oral biomaterials. Working with dental manufacturers around the world, he helped create research opportunities in the center for dental students, residents, and faculty throughout the School of Dentistry.

Beyond his dedication to research and teaching, he and Susan, his wife, built a philanthropic legacy at the School of Dentistry.

“Susan and I believe that giving back and generosity are an important part of life,” Powers says.

The couple began a tradition of giving in 1999 when they established the John M. and Susan M. Powers Dental Student Research Fund to support innovative research by predoctoral dental students. Over the years, they strengthened this tradition by endowing the John M. Powers, PhD, Professorship in Oral Biomaterials.

Most recently, the couple made a blended gift—a combination of an estate commitment and outright gift—to support the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics, expand their previous endowments, and help advance research and education at the School of Dentistry.

“Through this gift, I wanted to recognize the contributions of my colleagues and friends, including Dr. Rade Paravina, director of the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics, and Dean John Valenza,” Powers says. “I am very proud of Dr. Paravina, and I want to support Dean Valenza’s vision for the school.”

“We are grateful to John and Susan Powers for their long-standing generosity to our students, faculty, and staff,” says Valenza. “Their philanthropic vision will ensure the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics will continue to advance research in oral biomaterials and clinical technology for years to come.”

In honor of their commitment, the school will rename the center as the John M. Powers, PhD, Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics.

“This is a very cool recognition!” Powers says. “I hope that others who have benefited from their experiences at the School of Dentistry will continue to help the school grow.”

For information on ways to support the School of Dentistry through scholarships or other gifts, visit uth.edu/giving or contact UTHealth Office of Development at 713-500-3200.

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