Dean Lonnie Norris to Step Down Next Year
By News Staff
At the helm of the School of Dental Medicine since 1996, he led a $68 million facility expansion
Lonnie H. Norris, dean of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine since 1996, will step down in August 2011.
A Tufts-educated oral surgeon, Norris began his career at the university in 1977, as a resident in oral and maxillofacial surgery. He earned his postgraduate certificate in that specialty in 1980 and was appointed a clinical instructor.
“Since those early days, I have been generously mentored with growth and leadership opportunities,” he said in an announcement to the Tufts community. “I’ve been privileged to be a part of the Tufts dental community for more than 30 years, and proud to have led the school for the past 15 years,” Norris said. “My time here has been incredibly rewarding. I am immensely proud of the school, its students, alumni, faculty and staff. But it is time for me to move on and enjoy other aspects of my life.”
No doubt the dean’s legacy includes the completion last fall of the dental school’s five-story addition, replete with state-of-the art clinics, a sleek continuing education center and spacious new conference rooms, offices and meeting areas. Other enduring achievements have been the raising of academic standards and reinvigorating the school’s research enterprise.
A signature of his tenure as dean has been an unswerving commitment to educating dentists engaged in public health and community service. The $68 million expansion of the dental school building on the Boston campus contains 73 new treatment areas to care for 20,000 patients a year, many of whom have limited or no dental insurance.
Norris immersed himself in every detail of the 18-month expansion project, from fundraising to donning a hard hat and climbing up to the roof to marvel at the challenge of expanding a skyscraper in a crowded urban neighborhood. Under his steady stewardship and optimistic leadership style, the project was completed ahead of schedule and on budget, and the school remained fully operational throughout the construction.
“Lonnie Norris is one of the very best academic leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with,” said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow. “He is widely admired not just at Tufts, but nationally and internationally. Beloved by students, faculty, staff and peers alike, Dean Norris has literally brought Tufts University School of Dental Medicine to new heights,” Bacow said. “He has elevated its scholarly reputation, strengthened its commitment to public service and constructed new facilities that will serve the school well for generations.”
A professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Tufts, Norris was appointed interim dean in 1995 and was named the school’s 15th dean the next year. He earned his D.M.D. and master’s degree in public health at Harvard University. Before studying dental medicine, Norris, a native of Houston, worked as a thermoplastics engineer for Ford Motor Co. and was a captain in the U.S. Army, where he did research that led to patents for improved body armor for soldiers. He and his wife, Donna, a child psychiatrist, have two children, Marlaina, M99, an emergency room physician in New York City, and Michael, A01, a research analyst at a New York City investment firm.
“I feel in my heart that the time is right for this transition,” Norris said. “The school is in an excellent position. We have maintained a balanced budget while enhancing and improving all aspects of our academic standards, clinical operations, patient care and community service. Our alumni are devoted and generous, and the dental school’s portion of Tufts’ Beyond Boundaries campaign is within 90 percent of its $40 million goal and on target for completion in 2011.”
Tufts School of Dental Medicine is a leader in clinical research, receiving more than $7 million in total research funding. The dean has also been committed to a diverse student body. The school has 900 students in its D.M.D., 11 postgraduate and master of science programs, of which 30 percent are minorities.
The search for Norris’ successor will begin immediately, said Jamshed Bharucha, senior vice president and provost, adding that a search committee is being formed and a firm will be engaged to facilitate the process.