Senior Engagement Officer
FRIEND OF THE UNIVERSITY AWARD
Through innovative product development and a strong culture of serving others, American Orthodontics is dedicated to creating beautiful smiles. Its generous support of Marquette initiatives, says President Michael R. Lovell, is “creating a legacy of caring and kindness that goes far beyond our university and students.”
CEO Randy Benz, Bus Ad ’84, sees American Orthodontics and Marquette as significantly aligned. The company’s highest priority is caring for others — customers, employees and the greater community. “We expand this with the belief and practice of honesty, integrity, humility, continuous improvement, hard work, taking care of our AO family and supporting the world around us,” Randy explains. “We strive for a servant model.”
American Orthodontics was essentially launched on a promise of integrity, when founder Dan Merkel, Bus Ad ’51, secured a substantial startup loan with just his signature. Since 1968 the company has gone global, enjoyed a 51-year streak in sales growth and expanded its employee head count to more than 750 worldwide — but still manufactures 98 percent of its products at its Sheboygan, Wis., plant.
To share the fruits of American Orthodontics’ success more broadly, Dan and his late wife, Betty, established the Merkel Foundation. Gifts have primarily been directed to help children and families in need or crisis globally (but particularly in Sheboygan), strengthen and advance the Catholic faith, and support Marquette University initiatives within the School of Dentistry and beyond that emphasize caring for others.
American Orthodontics and the foundation have contributed to the School of Dentistry’s new building, funded equipment, provided products in-kind to help with student training, and even invited students to the Sheboygan headquarters for tours and talks. American Orthodontics’ financial contributions help the school’s network of clinics provide care for patients from underserved, underinsured or underrepresented groups.
The company and foundation were also early and significant supporters of Global Brigades, launched on the Marquette campus by Dr. Shital Vora, H Sci ’04, PT ’06, to help people who live in extreme poverty around the world. This ongoing support has helped Global Brigades continue to make a difference for people around the world and for the Marquette students and others who volunteer for brigade missions.
Randy is enthusiastic about the relationship American Orthodontics, in parternship with the Merkel Foundation, continues to cultivate with Marquette. “So many of our beliefs and efforts are aligned with the amazing work executed by Marquette and the Jesuit family,” he says. “We hope our greatest contribution is ahead of us, because our plans are to continue to help and support in ever-increasing ways.”
In its 51 years in business, American Orthodontics has never laid off a single employee or decreased wages as a whole.