Recently, ADEA President and Dean of Howard University College of Dentistry Leo E. Rouse presented Dr. L. Jackson Brown with an ADEA Challenge Coin for his service as Editor of the Journal of Dental Education. The ADEA Challenge Coin is a new concept in the Association, pioneered by Dr. Rouse. Challenge coins are a tradition that has its roots in the U.S. military but has gained prominence in other types of organizations.
“During my military career, it was important for morale and camaraderie to acknowledge soldiers and civilians in your organization for their outstanding service, loyalty, and commitment, aside from the usual written commendations or awards,” said Dr. Rouse. “The Challenge Coin represents an old tradition and something that you can keep on your person to enjoy challenging your colleagues and add to the ‘esprit de corps.’”
The tradition dates back to a common World War I legend about a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps who was shot down and captured by the Germans. The enemy took everything from the pilot, save a bronze medallion that was inscribed with his squadron’s insignia. The medallion was secreted in a small leather pouch that hung around his neck. When the pilot escaped from confinement, the medallion helped identify him as a “friendly” when he crossed back over the lines. It became a tradition for squadron members to carry their squadron coins as an identifier, creating a sense of brotherhood from their shared connection. It became tradition that when a challenge was issued, those who couldn’t present their coins found themselves subjected to mild ridicule or buying the next round.
While challenge coins hold special significance within the U.S. military community, they have recently been adopted by other organizations. Dr. Rouse says that ADEA members who receive an ADEA Challenge Coin “should know that the coin promotes collaboration, friendship, and strengthens bonds within our ADEA family. It is symbolic of the ‘Voice of Dental Education,’ and those who receive the coin should look upon the coin as a symbol of respect for their leadership.”
The concept of the challenge coin has special significance to Dr. Rouse, who served with the U.S. Army for 24 years. He concluded his service as the Commander and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Army Dental Command, leading the global operation of the Army Dental Corps. “I was presented with a beautiful handmade wooden display case for my challenge coins upon my retirement,” recalls Dr. Rouse. “It is in my office and reminds me daily of the wonderful leaders and service members with whom I have served and the many organizations that I supported during my career. There is a special kinship that I feel each day as I look upon the coins presented to me. The ADEA Challenge Coin is proudly displayed among them.”
The ADEA Challenge Coin is not a formal award, but designed to promote collaboration and friendships and to strengthen bonds within the Association. “They are given to encourage success within the ADEA Councils and Board of Directors, as well as the staff and our family of dental organizations and health care education associations,” said Dr. Rouse.
The symbols on the coin support the messages and unique position of ADEA and the dental education community. On the front of the coin with the ADEA logo is the fleur de lis, a heraldic symbol that represents leadership. On the reverse side is the cap of an Ionic pillar, a symbol of the stability and endurance of academic institutions. Inscribed around the border is the Association’s tagline, “The Voice of Dental Education.”
Dr. Rouse says that the ADEA Challenge Coins will be given to those members throughout the Association who demonstrate extraordinary leadership, regardless of their role in dental education, and contribute to the stability and endurance of our academic institutions. “It is a challenge coin,” Dr. Rouse remarked. “So don’t be caught without it at significant events where you could be challenged!”