The University of Otago Dental School class of 1950 (Photo: The Dental Reunion)

The Dental Reunion: An unmissable annual appointment

Every year, a group of retired dentists meet up for a dental school reunion. But with fewer and fewer of the class of 1950 still alive and kicking, could this one be their last?

The Dental Reunion featured in the Doc Edge Film Festival 2020 programme.

In 1950, a class of 42 dentists graduated from the University of Otago dental school. Between them they would go on to perform countless fillings, extractions, root canals and crown fittings over the decades that followed. In 1980, a large group of them came back together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation.

The reunion went so well they decided to have another one. Then another. By the 2000s, the now retired dentists were getting together every year, converging on Taupō for dinner, a drink and a catch-up. 

One year, one of the dentists was accompanied to the reunion by his daughter. “It was really quite special, and I came back home and talked to my husband and said we should make a short film about this,” Celia Grace, co-producer of The Dental Reunion, told the University of Otago Alumni newsletter when it was released as part of the Doc Edge film festival last year.

Every year, the number of attendees shrinks a little more. By the time The Dental Reunion was filmed in 2017, just five of the original class of 1950 were able to make it. One of the members of the class who weren’t about to attend passed away on the morning of the reunion. “Sad but inevitable,” says Diane Whyte, who was in charge of organising the event. “You can’t get to the great age that they have reached without this happening.”

Diane’s husband Alistair, his old classmates Ray Kelso, John Peat, John Plimmer and Darrell Grace (Celia’s dad) are all in their 90s now. “We’re here,” Alistair says, “to celebrate our graduation in 1950 as dentists – and we are having a wonderful party.” But with so few of the class still standing, will this party be their last?

“There’s no way we would be prepared to not carry on,” says Darrell. “It’s too important to us.” Others in the group don’t quite see it the same way. “I would probably vote against it,” says John Peat. “I don’t particularly like seeing everybody getting older and older and older … I’d rather have us finish while we’re looking pretty good.”

“I think after the dinner, when everybody’s feeling happy, they’ll come to the same conclusion: we’ll have another one,” Alistair says confidently. Diane laughs. “Whoever’s left. Last man standing.”


Doc Edge Film Festival 2021 runs from June 3 to July 11 in Auckland, Wellington and online. For full programme and ticket information visit docedge.nz

The Doc Edge Forum Online is an industry conference of seminars, panel discussions, masterclasses and networking opportunities held between May 27-31. Find out more at docedge.nz/industry/forum-2021/




The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.