When, in 1984, Albert Abrams, the President of the American Academy of Oral Pathology, asked me to draft a history of the academy, I thought this would be a relatively easy task.  After all, I had been one of the Academy’s seven founders, served as its first editor, as its president and a member of the Council for 28 years.  My first project in this behalf was to write each of the living past presidents requesting C.V.’s, photographs at the time they had held office, a list of five of their major contributions to the periodical literature, and a brief summary of important events during their tenure.  Most responded promptly, but few could actually recall events occurring while they held office.  This was a little disappointing, but when I tried the same exercise, I, too, had difficulty.  It was hard to differentiate the activities of 1954 from those of other years.  As one correspondent aptly expressed it, "I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what happened 30 years ago."

On behalf of deceased presidents, colleagues or others at their former institutions were most cooperative in supplying memorabilia.  Material for Kurt Thoma and Paul Boyle was supplied by Associate Dean Richard Carroll, with the cooperation of Dean Paul Goldhaber of Harvard School of Dental Medicine.  That for J. Roy Blayney was provided by Frank Orland who had succeeded Blayney as Director of the Zoller Memorial Dental Clinic.  For Donald Kerr, colleague Richard Courtney and Don’s widow, June, assisted, as did Miles Standish, Mitchell’s former associate.  Joseph Wienmann’s material was supplied by Stanley Gerson of the University of Illinois, through the cooperation of Dean Seymour Yale.

The Academy’s Secretary-Treasurer provided me with copies of minutes and programs missing from my files.  Joseph Bernier courteously supplied copies of his early correspondence during the formative years of the Academy.  One of the most appreciated responses came from Henry Swanson, living in a nursing home, still recovering from a stroke and major surgery when he supplied the material.

The original Constitution and By-Laws is included as Appendix I.

In retrospect, the birth of the Academy was not unlike that of many oral pathologists who make up its membership.  It was not an easy birth, but the period from conception to realization was less than one year.  There were those who supported it strongly and nurtured, those who offered passive assistance and a few who questioned its potential.  And, there were times when its very future was in doubt.  Nevertheless, the Academy and its related Board has survived and flourished over the years.

With the gracious help of the many contributors, I have attempted to keep this document factual and accurate.  I believe that this history will be of interest and value, not only to members of the Academy, but to many other dentists and pathologists as well.  Editorial assistance by Judith A. Stofman and Clara C. Ratkiewicz is gratefully acknowledged.

Hamilton B.G. Robinson


It was during my year as President-Elect of the Academy that Susan Zunt, the President, commented that the original history written by Ham Robinson was then more than 20 years old.  That made me worry that a large portion of the Academy’s history would be lost if we didn’t update the history soon.  So, when I assumed the presidency in 2010, one of the goals I set for my presidential year was to have the history updated.  This is where I made the first mistake of my presidency.  A president is supposed to lead, delegating responsibilities like this to colleagues, and, to my current dismay, I failed to do that.  I thought this would be a relatively easy task, following the lead that Ham Robinson had set, and figured I could get this done myself.  I soon learned that it was not an easy task at all, and it has taken me more than 5 years to get to the point that the updated history is ready to post to our website.  Most of the delay was due to my inability to find time in my daily schedule to devote sufficient time to be able to complete this effort.  But, some unforeseen complications contributed as well.

The transition from a self-run Academy, where the Secretary-Treasurer did the lion’s share of the business of the Academy, to utilizing a management company to handle the administrative, day-to-day operations occurred in 1991, just a few years after the “end” of Ham’s history (1988).  Trying to track down information on the workings of the academy from 1988-1991 proved fruitless.  Furthermore, the information from 1991-1995 could not be located as it covered the period where the Academy utilized a single individual as executive secretary, before transitioning to our current management company.  Thus, the format established by Ham Robinson of summarizing meetings by decade had to be discarded.  Instead, as I contacted prior Presidents of the Academy to request their presidential biographies, I asked them to include a section that discussed the major problems and initiatives they dealt with during their presidential year.  Thus, the history from 1988 onward is best appreciated in the section where the presidential biographies are detailed.  Past Presidents responded well to my requests and I only had to threaten a select few with bodily harm to get them to follow through with my request.

Thanks are in order for several individuals who contributed their time and efforts to the completion of this project.  Unfortunately, Russ Corio had passed away before the project was begun.  His presidential biography was composed by his former student, servicemate, and friend Gary Warnock.  Gary went above and beyond in this effort, contacting Russ’s wife Mary Jane to gather all the necessary information for a complete biography.  Chuck Tomich was an invaluable aid.  Due to his tenure as editor of the Oral Pathology section of OOO, Chuck remembered that information that might be needed for updating the history was recorded in the posting of summaries to OOO after the annual meetings.  Although retired, he made a trip to the Indiana University library to hunt down very old issues of OOO, filling in many of the holes in the information I was gathering.  Bruce Barker provided photographs of several of the Past Presidents that I was lacking by reviewing the collection he amassed as the designated (though unofficial) photographer of the Academy and forwarding them to me.  Lastly, Doug Damm, as the “operational guru” of the Past Presidents’ Association, regularly posted the names of the individuals whose biographies were lacking in the newsletter he sends yearly to the Past Presidents.  I think this prompted several of the recalcitrant folks into submitting their biography, as they didn’t want to be shamed by having their name show up repeatedly.

I hope all will get some pleasure from reading through this updated history.  I’m betting that many of our “older” members will read it purely for the nostalgia it may provide, reviving old, partially forgotten memories of “the good old days.”  I would encourage our younger generation of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists to take some time to read it as well.  When we are young, we often don’t concern ourselves with history, concentrating instead on what is happening currently while looking to the future.  Getting a feel for how far we have come as a specialty over the past 70 years will hopefully provide some perspective on where we are now and where we are going.

Harvey Kessler
October 2016