School of Dentistry Dean-Emeritus Richard Oliver passes away at 89

Dean-Emeritus Richard Oliver (D.D.S.), Rio Verde, Arizona, died on September 23, 2019. He was 89 years old.

Dr. Richard Oliver was the School of Dentistry’s eighth permanent dean and the fifth University of Minnesota graduate to hold the position.

His tenure as dean was marked by visionary leadership, dynamic professional participation, a strong emphasis on the student experience, astute financial management, and a robust expansion of the dental school’s program offerings that positioned the school to better meet the new and emerging needs of the profession.

During his tenure, the school launched or expanded programs in occlusion and craniofacial pain, biomaterials, clinical research, geriatric dentistry, advanced general dentistry and more. We held our first alumni-students day to help students bridge the transition from dental school to dental practice, and began to monitor dental practice trends.

It also was during Dr. Oliver’s tenure that University of Minnesota dental students were first seated officially as delegates in the Minnesota Dental Association House of Delegates.

Nationally, Dr. Oliver chaired the American Dental Association’s Special Committee on the Future of Dentistry from 1981-83. He was a consultant to the Commission on Dental Accreditation, a member of the ADA’s Council on Dental Research and its Special Delegation to China, and chair of the American Academy of Periodontology’s Long-Range Planning Committee.

He also chaired several committees of the American Association of Dental Schools, including its Council of Deans and Executive Committee, and served as AADS president in 1981-1982. His research interests were in investigations related to periodontology, including lysozyme levels in periodontal disease, wound healing and inflammation, and on curricular designs and innovations. He was a generous contributor to the literature and served on the editorial board of five national dental journals, including more than 10 years as editor of Periodontal Abstracts.

Dr. Oliver’s love for the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and his pride in being a part of both its history and future continued well beyond his time as dean. He was a regular attendee at annual alumni events held each summer in Arizona, and he returned often to greet old friends and new, always with a warm smile on his face, his hand extended in greeting, and the name of even his most casual acquaintances on the tip of his tongue.

Dr. Oliver received his doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of Minnesota in 1953. The Minnesota native then earned a master of science degree in periodontology from Loma Linda, where
he later served as professor of periodontics and director for post-graduate periodontics until 1975.

He was a Fulbright Research Professor at the Royal Dental College in Arhus, Denmark (1967-68), and was appointed dean of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in 1975. Dr. Oliver spoke often of how his experience in Arhus shaped his belief in the importance of science to the dental profession.

He returned to the University of Minnesota as dean from 1977-1986. In 2012, Dr. Richard C. Oliver was awarded the University of Minnesota’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award.

Richard L. Oliver, DDS
Richard Oliver, DDS