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Week of October 8, 2012


Pauline Steele

Pauline Steele, the second director of the dental hygiene program at the School of Dentistry from 1968 to 1988, died Sept. 13 in Columbus, Ohio, after an extended illness. She was 88.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Miami University in Ohio (1946), she managed a physician’s office in Oberlin, Ohio. A short time later, she changed her career focus to study dental hygiene. Steele received a certificate from Ohio State University (1956), a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene education (1957), and a master’s degree in health education (1959).

From 1959 to 1961 she was an instructor in OSU’s hygiene program. In 1961 Steele accepted an invitation to launch the dental hygiene program at West Virginia University. Six years later she became dental hygiene director at the University of Cincinnati. In 1968 she became director of the U-M School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene program.

During her 20 years of leadership at the School of Dentistry, the dental hygiene program became a four-year program designed to provide students with an expanded education resulting in increased career opportunities. The program required students to take a year of courses in liberal arts followed by three years of courses in dental hygiene at the School of Dentistry. Students who successfully completed the program received a Bachelor of Science degree.

Steele was an officer in many dental hygiene organizations, including president of the state dental hygiene associations in both Ohio and West Virginia. She also served as president of the Supreme Chapter of Sigma Phi Alpha, the dental hygiene honor society. She was contributor and editor to two books, “Review of Dental Hygiene — Questions and Answers” and “Dimensions of Dental Hygiene.” She was associate editor of the Journal of American Dental Hygiene Association and was a member of the ADA’s committee on dental hygiene.

For her contributions to dental hygiene education at the School of Dentistry and the dental hygiene profession, an award initiated by the Dental Hygienists’ Alumnae Association was renamed the Pauline Steele Student Leadership Award in 1987. The award is presented annually to the senior dental hygiene student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities.

In 1994, she received the School of Dentistry’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes and honors a living person who has made an outstanding contribution to the School of Dentistry, the school’s Alumni Society, or to the profession of dentistry or dental hygiene.

Wendy Kerschbaum, associate professor of dental hygiene and who succeeded Steele as director of the dental hygiene program in 1988, said a dinner meeting she had in 1967 when she was an undergraduate set the stage for what she describes as a rewarding career.

“I began my dental hygiene education the same year Pauline became director,” Kerschbaum says. “For the next 20 years, she was role model, mentor and friend. She was one of the great leaders in dental hygiene during her career.”



Liz Glynn, children’s program coordinator for Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, on her job: “Our programs tie their field experience with us to what they’re doing in the classroom.”


“I know you’re there, but who am I?” exhibit, noon-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through Oct. 19 at Work•Ann Arbor, 306 S. State St.

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