Legendary dental educator and leader of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry passes away at 95

“At Pacific we grow people, and along the way they become doctors.”

Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni, who transformed University of the Pacific’s school of dentistry into one of the nation’s best during his 28 years as dean, died September 23rd at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 95.

The charismatic and energetic educator championed a student-centered caring, “humanistic” approach to dentistry that became a national model in dental education.

His oft-quoted mantra was, “At Pacific we grow people, and along the way they become doctors.”

“Art Dugoni was one of the most important leaders in the 169-year history of California’s first university,” said Pacific President Christopher Callahan. “He not only transformed the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, but the discipline of dental education. Art will be deeply missed, but his legacy will live on through the thousands of alumni, faculty, students, staff, supporters and friends at the school that bears his name.”

Dr. Dugoni’s remarkable life and leadership inspired countless dental students, residents, faculty and staff, to pursue their passion for oral healthcare education and practice, leading to the improvement of the lives of millions.

A legend in the field of dental education, he served as dean of the Dugoni School from 1978 to 2006. His prior roles at the school included assistant professor of operative dentistry; assistant professor of pediatric dentistry; assistant professor of orthodontics; chairman of the department of orthodontics; associate professor of orthodontics; and professor of orthodontics. 

"Art led a purposeful life and his legacy lives in the people he educated and the lives he touched,” said President Emeritus Don DeRosa. “I’m proud I was president when Pacific honored him by naming the dental school the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. He so wonderfully exemplified Pacific’s mission of “preparing individuals for lasting achievement and responsible leadership in their careers and communities.”

In addition to leading the dental school for 28 years, Dr. Dugoni served as president of the California Dental Association, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Education Association and the American Board of Orthodontics. He presented some 1,000 lectures, papers, clinics and essays during his career, and published more than 175 articles. He was one of only 30 living members globally of the FDI World Dental Federation’s List of Honour.

“Dentistry and dental education are stronger today because of Dr. Dugoni and his passion for people and the profession,” said Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. “The Dugoni School family honors his legacy and how he touched our lives by building on our defining characteristic of humanistic education and commitment to excellence. Thank you to an incredible mentor and role model.”

On August 28, 2004, University of the Pacific renamed its School of Dentistry as the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in honor of Dr. Dugoni’s contributions to dental education and organized dentistry during his silver anniversary as dean. 

He became the first and only person in the United States or Canada to have a dental school named in their honor while holding the position of dean.

The Dugoni School of Dentistry flourished under his leadership. Advances in digital dentistry, creation of a state-of-the-art simulation lab, the launch of the International Dental Studies program, expansion of clinical services and community outreach, clinical research that led to new dental products and techniques, and many other advances all took hold during his tenure as dean.

He also had a passion for philanthropy and supporting students and the community. In 2006 the school completed the largest dental school capital fundraising campaign at the time in the U.S ($65.7 million).

Dr. Dugoni received the Hinman Medallion for Leadership, Albert H. Ketcham Orthodontic Award from the American Board of Orthodontics (1994), Medallion of Distinction from the School of Dentistry (1989), Chairman's Award from the American Dental Trade Association (1994), Pierre Fauchard Academy Gold Medal (1996), Distinguished Service Award from the American Dental Association and the American Dental Education Association (2000), University of the Pacific Order of Pacific, Pacific's highest honor, for 55 years of service (2006), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2008), and the William J. Gies Award from the American Dental Education Association for Outstanding Achievement as a dental educator (2009).

At the World Dental Parliament meeting of the FDI World Dental Federation in Barcelona, Spain, in 1998, Dr. Dugoni was elected to the List of Honour, the highest award the FDI bestows on a member and is limited to 30 living members  worldwide who have made distinguished contributions to international dentistry and the World Dental Federation.

Dr. Dugoni held membership in the honor societies Tau Kappa Omega, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Kappa Upsilon. He was also a fellow of the American and International College of Dentists and the Academy of Dentistry International. 

Born in San Francisco on June 29, 1925 to Italian immigrant parents, Dr. Dugoni excelled in track and basketball before graduating as class valedictorian from St. James High School (later affiliated with Riordan). He briefly attended the University of San Francisco before completing his degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, where he met his wife, Katherine Agnes Groo. He began his dental education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City before earning his DDS degree in 1948 from the College of Physicians & Surgeons in San Francisco (the forerunner of the school that would ultimately bear his name). Dr. Dugoni practiced as a dentist in South San Francisco for 14 years before deciding to earn his Orthodontics degree in 1963 from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.

Upon returning to the Bay Area, Dr. Dugoni pioneered the mixed dentition orthodontic clinic at University of the Pacific and maintained a private orthodontic practice in South San Francisco until 1987.

Dr. Dugoni was preceded in death by his parents Arthur and Lina (Bianco) Dugoni, his wife of 66 years Katherine and his brother William. He leaves behind his companion of recent years, Cathie Perga of Palo Alto, his sister Evelyn Fiorina of Denver, and seven children: Steven (Lisa) of Hillsborough; Michael (Marianne) of Fremont; Russell (Maureen) of Fairfield; Mary Rouleau (Bertrand) of Los Altos; Diane Harris (Robert) of Foster City; Arthur (Kristin) of Sacramento and James (Lisa) of Stockton. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren: Patrick and Emily (Steven); Brian and Christine (Michael); Paul and Eric (Russell); Sean, Aaron, Nicolas and Elizabeth (Mary); Joseph and Mary (Diane); Benjamin (Arthur); and Tyler and Jackson (James); as well as nine great grandchildren: Brendan, Kenzie, Connor and Jonathan (Sean); Claire and Evan (Christine), Charlotte and Everett (Aaron) and Kaylyn (Paul). He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

Memorial gifts may be made to The Art Dugoni Scholar Fund, an endowment that will support a Dugoni dental student. Visit the fund's site or call the dental school’s Office of Development at 415.929.6406. 

More about Dr. Dugoni:

Watch interviews with Dr. Dugoni discussing some of his experiences in the video series: “Stories from a Life in Dentistry: A Conversation with Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni”.

Details about Dr. Dugoni’s upbringing and rise to the heights of dental education, practice and leadership are also highlighted in the book Quest for Excellence: The Arthur A. Dugoni Story. An audio version of the book is also available, read by one of Dr. Dugoni’s sons.