Neil Capolongo

Neil Capolongo, D.D.S., B.S.’85

University Ambassador

By Carol Olechowski

“Albany was the foundation” for Neil Capolongo’s career as an orthodontist. “It was a state university, but I found it to be a private school, in many ways. Its history as a teachers college was presented to us many times. Albany gave me leadership abilities; at 20 or 21 years of age, I’d have conversations with the University president and administrators, and conduct myself as an ambassador to visiting students and professors. I was in the Purple and Gold Society. Each experience impacted a part of my life. I have such great things to tell my patients about Albany.”

Capolongo encourages his young patients "all the time" to consider attending UAlbany.

And tell them he does: At his office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., Capolongo encourages his young patients “all the time” to consider attending UAlbany. “It’s also wonderful to speak with current students and with other graduates. I hear good things. Today, a patient told me that he visited the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. It was great to hear how interested he is in UAlbany.”

teeth at the dentist's office

Capolongo, who majored in biology, “always wanted to be a doctor” but later found himself “on the fence,” choosing between a career in medicine or dentistry. “Part of what made me go the dental route was some research I did at the Empire State Plaza’s Wadsworth Labs,” he notes. “Junior year, I wanted to do some research and round out my CV and graduate school application. One of my professors put me in contact with Dr. Carmen Mannella, who was researching a cancer drug, Adriamycin, to determine its toxicity to the heart and how to prevent it. I’d take the bus downtown and hang out in the basement – ‘the dungeon,’ I called it – and the research did round me out. It was intense, very finite, very detailed, which I was not used to. Dr. Mannella let me run with it, and he got some grant money for further study. I was paid for about 10 hours of work a week, and I did earn graduate credits my senior year.”

The work also convinced Capolongo that “I could never do research. I decided on dentistry.” His “strong” background in the sciences “got me into Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine. I even received a scholarship, which paid 50 percent of my tuition.”

Capolongo met his wife, Gina, a pediatric dentist, at Columbia. After graduation, they moved to Westchester County, sensing the area “would prove to be a good opportunity. We’ve been here for 21 great, super, wonderful years,” he says.

Dr. Capolongo examines one of his patients

While Albany prepared him well for his career, Capolongo notes that even his treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma had a University connection. His doctors prescribed Adriamycin – the very same pharmaceutical Capolongo researched as an undergraduate. “It was surreal, in many ways,” he admits, adding that he’s now “15 years cancer free.”

The Long Island native is proud of the University and his fellow graduates. “We have strong alumni; we all have fond memories of Albany and its history and vibrancy. I had a great college experience and the educational greatness that got me down the road to my profession. When you combine the two, what more can you have? It was a win-win situation.”

For Capolongo, “the college conversations are just starting now” with his oldest child, Catie, who turns 16 in September. “It’s a matter of seeing what would be right for her. I could see my daughter enjoying both academics and entertainment on campus. Albany will be on our list when we start looking at schools – absolutely, it will. I came out of there with complete happiness.

“The opportunities at the University are immense,” says Capolongo, who is also the father of 12-year-old twins Genevieve and Lauren. “I enjoyed being there. I took a year off after college and stayed in Albany; it’s a great town. It’s a fun place and has easy access to many other places – Saratoga, Lake George, skiing at Gore Mountain. It really was great.”