History and mission

Legacy photo of dentist with child [View Image]

The School of Dentistry was created in 1893 when the University College of Medicine opened with a dental department as one of its original divisions. The Medical College of Virginia inaugurated a dental education program in 1897, and in 1913 the two programs merged to form the MCV School of Dentistry.

In 1968, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly, the Medical College of Virginia merged with Richmond Professional Institute to form Virginia Commonwealth University. The School of Dentistry is located at the VCU Medical Center.

Consistent with the university’s mission, the School of Dentistry’s programs are guided by the following mission statement:

  • Education of highly qualified dental professionals
  • Research that advances the understanding of oral health, disease and effective treatment
  • Service to the community
  • Improved oral and general health of our patients and the general population

Past deans

The VCU School of Dentistry has a rich history that dates back more than a century. In that time, the school has undergone many changes. The school and its students witnessed considerable advances in technology, relocation and construction of new buildings, new visions and missions for the school and new leadership.

Each of the 14 past deans contributed something unique and valuable to the school and its students, faculty and alumni. These men created a tradition of excellence at the VCU School of Dentistry and shaped the future of the dental profession.

Cowardin [View Image]

Lewis M. Cowardin, M.D., D.D.S. 
Dean, School of Dentistry, University College of Medicine, 1893–1910

Lewis M. Cowardin, M.D., D.D.S., headed the University College of Medicine's dental school from 1893 to 1910 without renumeration, all the time making substantial contributions to the school to keep it going when there was no endowment or state aid. He was one of the founders of the Richmond Dental Society in 1894 and practiced dentistry for more than 56 years.

Henry C. Jones, D.D.S. 
Dean, School of Dentistry, Medical College of Virginia, 1897–1901

Henry C. Jones, D.D.S., enjoyed an enviable reputation in his private practice in Richmond, was colonel of the First Virginia Regiment and served as director-general of the Exposition held in Richmond in 1888.

J. Hall Moore, D.D.S. 
Dean, School of Dentistry, Medical College of Virginia, 1901–1906

J. Hall Moore, D.D.S., labored unceasingly to raise the standards of dentistry. His work as leader in the framing of the dental law in Virginia earned him the reputation as the "Father of Dentistry in Virginia."

Frank Whiting Stiff, D.D.S. 
Dean, School of Dentistry, Medical College of Virginia, 1906–1913

Frank Whiting Stiff, D.D.S., was a charter member of the Richmond Dental Society and served in 1911 as president of the Virginia State Dental Society. His broad abilities led to his appointment as a member of the board of visitors of the College of William and Mary. He continued as dental faculty chairman until 1913 and in private practice until 1931.

Simpson [View Image]

Richard Lee Simpson, A.M., D.D.S., FACD 
Dean, School of Dentistry, University College of Medicine, 1910–1913 Dean, School of Dentistry, Medical College of Virginia, 1913–1915

Richard Lee Simpson, A.M., D.D.S., FACD, chairman of the University College of Medicine's dental faculty from 1910 to 1913, became dean of the combined dental school.

J. A. Cameron Hoggan, L.D.S., D.D.S., FACD 
Dean, 1915–1925

J. A. Cameron Hoggan, L.D.S., D.D.S., FACD, a native of Canada, was named dean and served during a period of substantial advancement for the School of Dentistry and the dental profession.

Thornton [View Image]

Robert Dunsmore Thornton, D.D.S. 
Dean, 1925–1929

Robert Dunsmore Thornton, D.D.S., another Canadian, was named dean and served for three years before returning to private practice in 1929.

Harry Bear, D.D.S., D.Sc., FACD 
Dean, 1929–1950

Harry Bear, D.D.S., was the first graduate of the School of Dentistry to serve as dean. Bear earned a national reputation in the field of dental education and was president of the American Association of Dental Schools and the American Society of Oral Surgery and was a Fellow of the American College of Dentists.

Harry Lyons, D.D.S., D.Sc., LL.D. 
Dean, 1951–1970

Harry Lyons, D.D.S., D.Sc., LL.D., joined the School of Dentistry faculty shortly after his graduation in the Class of 1923 and rose through the ranks from instructor to professor and head of the Department of Oral Pathology, Diagnosis and Theraputics. He was named dean in 1951. Lyons oversaw the move of the school from McGuire Hall to the VCU Dental Building 1, and helped break ground for what is now known as the Lyons Dental Building.

DiBiaggio [View Image]

John A. DiBiaggio, D.D.S., M.A., LL.D. 
Dean, 1970–1976

John A. DiBiaggio, D.D.S., M.A., LL.D., was named dean in 1970. During DiBiaggio's tenure, the departments of Periodontics and Endodontics were launched. DiBiaggio later served as president of the University of Connecticut, Michigan State University and Tufts University.

Kennedy [View Image]

James Edward Kennedy, D.D.S., M.S. 
Dean, 1977–1983

James Edward Kennedy, D.D.S., M.S., formerly chairman of the Department of Periodontics, enhanced the school's standing in the research community and moved to forge a stronger relationship with alumni. Kennedy later served as dean of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.

James H. Revere Jr., D.D.S. 
Interim dean, 1983–1985

James H. Revere Jr., D.D.S, has served on the faculty at the school in a wide variety of positions, both instructional and administrative, for 40 years. He currently serves as the director of planned giving. Revere is held in high regard by many generations of dental school alumni.

Lindsay Hunt [View Image]

Lindsay M. Hunt Jr., D.D.S., Ph.D. 
Dean, 1985–1998

Lindsay M. Hunt Jr., D.D.S., Ph.D., placed a heavy emphasis on professionalism and ethics. His contributions include leading extensive renovations to the school's physical facilities as well as a redesign of the clinical curriculum. During his tenure, the VCU Philips Institute of Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology was established.

Ronald Hunt [View Image]

Ronald J. Hunt, D.D.S., M.S. 
Dean, 1998–2010

Ronald J. Hunt, D.D.S., M.S., led the effort to implement a new electronic clinic management system, including digital radiography and an electronic dental record for patient care. During his tenure, construction of the W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. Building was completed. Hunt served as president of the American Dental Education Association.

Dean Sarrett [View Image]

David S. Sarrett, D.M.D., M.S. 
Dean, 2010–2021

Dr. Sarrett began his career at the school in 1993 when he became chair of the Department of General Practice. He became the assistant dean for academic affairs in 2000 and in 2003 was appointed associate vice president for Health Sciences, academic affairs for VCU and dean of the School of Dentistry in 2010. Dean Sarrett initiated the Ph.D. program in oral health research and expanded the school’s research initiatives and sponsored awards by 600%. Also during his tenure as dean, Dr. Sarrett created the Department of Dental Public Health and Policy and established the VCU iCubed Transdisciplinary Core in Child and Adolescent Oral Health, one of the first of its kind at VCU. He established the school’s digital dentistry program and worked to secure a solid financial foundation upon which to build for the future.