Kentucky State University (KSU) graduate and first African-American student at the University of Kentucky’s (UK) College of Dentistry Dr. Benjamin Nero will speak at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 22 at the Bradford Hall Little Theater. The lecture will continue KSU’s Living Legends Series. The February series highlights notable speakers who enhance the intellectual aspect of campus life.
Dr. Nero also the first African-American graduate of the UK College of Dentistry program in 1967. He established a successful career and practiced dentistry for over 40 years. The Greenwood, Mississippi, native grew up on his family’s farm that his grandfather bought shortly after he was freed from slavery. He graduated from a segregated high school where supplies and equipment weren’t in abundance, but teachers were dedicated.
Dr. Nero first gained an interest in dentistry by talking with one of his former football coaches who quit coaching to study dentistry himself.
While at Kentucky State College, now University, Dr. Nero majored in biology and minored in chemistry and English. He also played quarterback on the team and was active in the civil rights movement.
“I participated in some sit-ins around Frankfort. While we faced the usual threats of arrests or assaults, we escaped without harm and I believe we made an impact in those difficult times,” he said in an interview with the University of Kentucky.
After he graduated from the UK College of Dentistry, Dr. Nero began an internship at Albert Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia in a three-year residency in Orthodontics. He also took over the orthodontic practice of the first African-American orthodontist in Philadelphia, Knowlton Atterbeary, after his death in 1970.
Dr. Nero has traveled to Haiti to provide dental care to island residents, served as the second president of the New Era Dental Society of Philadelphia, and has mentored many dental students and young dentists throughout his career. In 2010, a scholarship was established to honor Dr. Nero and Dr. Robert H. Biggerstaff, the first African-American faculty member at the UK College of Dentistry.
— Shantel Booth