Skip to content Skip to navigation

A Tribute to Dr. Jack Bates, Class of 1941

Dentist and Gifted Photographer

Dr. Jackson “Jack” Bates (DDS 1941), of Ovid, Michigan, passed away May 4 at the age of 97.  He practiced dentistry in Ovid for 36 years after four years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard.

A photographer for the Michigan Daily and the Michiganensian during his days at U-M, Bates also took photos, when time allowed, at the School of Dentistry.  His exquisite work captured life at the School of Dentistry in the late 1930s and early 1940s as no one before him had. 

His well-composed photographs featured administrators in discussions among themselves and with faculty members.  He captured students working in preclinical labs learning how to use dental equipment and activities in dental clinics.  He also visually chronicled the construction of facilities, including the early days of construction of the Kellogg Building in 1939. 

More than two dozen of his photos and comments about individuals in the photos and what was taking place when the pictures were taken appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of the School of Dentistry’s alumni magazine, DentalUM.  The photos were selected from more than 400 prints and contact sheets, plus 150 slides he sent to the school.

“In 1935, my father gave me an Argus camera as a high school graduation gift and I have been enjoying photography ever since,” he told Jerry Mastey, who wrote the story for the alumni magazine.  “Taking pictures in the early part of the twentieth century required a steady hand.  Flashbulbs were unheard of.  When they were first available during the Depression, they cost 15 cents each which was a small fortune at the time.”

Bates embraced technology.  Long after he retired, he learned to use a computer and enjoyed taking photos with a digital camera.  In an e-mail to the School of Dentistry, he wrote, “I so enjoy digital photography that I have not missed the darkroom.”

Since the school’s Kellogg Auditorium reopened in January 2013 following months of renovations, many of the photos Bates had taken have been prominently displayed on the walls.  That fall, Dr. D. Clare Bates paused to look and marvel at some of the photos taken by Jack, his second cousin.

A memorial service for Jack and his wife, Janet, was held June 27 at the United Church of Ovid. The family asks that memorials for Jack be given in his name to the University of Michigan. On the memo line, please include: In Memory of Dr. Jack Bates. Checks can be mailed to the U-M School of Dentistry, Office of Development, 540 E. Liberty Street, Suite 204, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104.

Full set of photos available on Flickr.