Dr. Earl Lerner: A dedicated philanthropist and artist

December 2015
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Dr. Lerner with one of his carvings. Photo credit: Ioana Dumitru

It’s rare to come across someone like Dr. Earl Lerner. He is a very passionate man. Passionate about his profession, about giving and about his free time. He is an orthodontist, a philanthropist, an artist, an active athlete, a dedicated father and grandfather.

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A shelf portraying Dr. Lerner’s artistry, awards and photos of his scholarship’s recipients. Photo credit: Ioana Dumitru

Dr. Lerner, DDS ’63, started his BSc in Sciences at McGill and with a little encouragement from a friend applied to dentistry on a whim after his third year of studies. With his artistic side and excellent fine motor skills he passed his DAT easily (his friend didn’t) and the rest is history. Since finishing his specialty training in orthodontics at Columbia University in 1966, Dr. Lerner has been a keen advocate of living well. “I’ve always taken at least one day a week so I can have some time pursuing my other interests,” says Dr. Lerner, “it’s been an important part of achieving a healthy work-life balance.”

In his free moments he finds time to relax and let go of the demands life has by being active and wild fowl carving. “I’ve always had an artistic side. When I discovered carving it was a great escape and challenge for me. Hours can pass by without me noticing when I’m in my workshop,” he says. He is an expert wildfowl sculptor and his home shows the fruits of years of artistry. Adorned with birds of all types and ribbons galore, on first appearance you would think Dr. Lerner is a pro sports hunter. His wooden sculptures are shockingly lifelike. One has to touch it to realise the feathers are actually carved in wood. Over the years he has refined his carving and painting techniques and won many awards nationally and internationally. His ability to work with his hands as an artist was “almost like a transfer” from his daily practice of orthodontics.

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A carving overlooking the living room in Dr. Lerner’s home. Photo credit: Ioana Dumitru

As a philanthropist, Dr. Lerner has been contributing to an undergraduate student scholarship award for the past 15 years. “By giving a little I’m able to make a big difference in a student’s life,” says Lerner. Each year, a DMD student receives the Dr. Earl Lerner Faculty Scholarship at the White Coat Ceremony. Winning this award comes with more than just money – the student also gets a mentor in Dr. Lerner. He gives because he likes to and feels that it is the least he can do for the students and to give back for all he has received from McGill. “Getting an education today is costly and students shouldn’t have to accumulate so much debt so young. As for mentoring students, I don’t come from a family of dentists, I had no mentor, no one to turn to when I was a student,” he says. “Students are under a lot of stress, much pressure and they may need to talk to someone when they are trying to make decisions about their future or just need to find some motivation.” Dr. Lerner recently joined the Faculty’s mentorship program as well to listen, to give advice, and lend his experience to students.

Dr. Lerner oozes energy and is proud of what he’s accomplished. His dedication to helping young students learn and grow in their own careers is exemplary. It is thanks to him, and others with this same dedication, that our Faculty continues to be such a great place. Passion, empowering passion.

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