December 1, 2018
Longtime faculty member Dr. Ron Milnarik, Clinical Assistant Professor, Endodontics, was honored by UIC Advancement and UIC Athletics by being chosen to be the Torch Bearer for the Lighting of the Flame at the Dec. 1 men’s basketball game between the UIC Flames and the Loyola Ramblers.
Dr. Milnarik felt that the accolade was particularly meaningful because, along with being a current UIC faculty member and having also taught at Loyola, he is alumnus of both institutions. From UIC, he earned his BSD in Dentistry in 1965 and his DDS in 1967. From Loyola, he earned an Endodontics Certificate in 1975 and an MS in Oral Biology in 1977. During the current IGNITE Campaign, he and his wife, Pauline, endowed a Professorship in Endodontics at the College named for his mentor, Dr. Franklin S. Weine, who taught at both Loyola’s and UIC’s dental schools.
“And my dad, Dr. Marshall Milnarik, went to Loyola’s dental school, so that made it mean more, too,” Dr. Ron Milnarik said. “It was a great honor.”
Dr. Milnarik took the Lighting of the Flame so seriously that he prepared ahead of time.
Dr. Dave Kumamoto, a College alumnus and former faculty member, had been a previous Torch Bearer “because of his decades of service as team dentist, so I asked Dave if he had any tips,” Dr. Milnarik explained. “He told me, ‘Watch out, that flame really flares up.’ That was a good tip, because it sure did.”
To “even be in the same category as previous Torch Bearers from the College of Dentistry, such as Dr. Kumamoto and Dr. Irwin Robinson, was a great honor,” Dr. Milnarik said. “It’s great for the University to include the College of Dentistry in this tradition.”
Dr. Milnarik also attended a game earlier in the season so he could observe the flame being lit—except it turned out that the ceremony was not performed at that game.
“However, the cheerleaders were throwing UIC t-shirts into the audience and I was surrounded by fans from the visiting team, so since I was the only UIC fan in the area, the cheerleader noticed and threw me the shirt,” he said. “As the Torch Bearer I was supposed to wear UIC red, so I ended up wearing that actual UIC Flames shirt that the cheerleader provided at the earlier game.”
At the game where he lit the flame, Dr. Milnarik was accompanied by Pauline; sister, Jean; niece, Pam; and her husband, Nathan. Because of the local connection, the UIC Flames-Loyola Ramblers game also is a big social event. “There was a pregame reception in the Dragon’s Den; the College of Dentistry had one for Loyola and UIC dental alumni; UIC alumni had a reception across the street—and I didn’t even get to finish eating because a half hour before the Lighting of the Flame, they wanted me to practice,” Dr. Milnarik said, laughing.
“Everyone was very helpful, and there even was a man on the court to tell me when to light the flame—right when the school song ends,” Dr. Milnarik said. “It was hard to hear the song, but with his assistance we managed to get the timing right.”
The concentration and detail the Lighting of the Flame required made Dr. Milnarik think of a story from his Loyola student days when he was concentrating too much.
“As a student, you’ve got a lot of things to concentrate on, and how you got to school isn’t one of them,” he said. “One day after school at Loyola it was raining really hard. I went to where I thought I parked my car, got really wet, and found it wasn’t there. So I thought I might have parked somewhere else, got even more wet, and found the car wasn’t there either.
“Then I realized I had taken the bus that day—I could have waited right at the door and not gotten wet at all,” he said. “That taught me to put things in perspective.”
Even though he is a dual alum, he viewed the game from a UIC perspective. “I was definitely rooting for UIC to win the game,” he said, but the Ramblers topped the Flames 73-64.
“It was really an honor to be the Torch Bearer,” Dr. Milnarik concluded. “Fun, too.”