Biomedical sciences team bids farewell to its resident ‘editor in chief’

Jeanne Santa Cruz retires after 28 years at the dental school
March 15th, 2018
Jeanne Santa Cruz

Jeanne Santa Cruz, fourth from right, with several members of the biomedical sciences team during her March 9 retirement reception

Back in the late 1980s, there was a fledgling department at the dental school known simply as dental materials. It was scattered around the college, with offices on the fourth floor, one tucked away in the basement, where the print shop now resides, and another near the gross anatomy lab. Around this time, Jeanne Santa Cruz was hired as the department secretary. It didn’t take long for this staff member’s unique skill set to become apparent to others. Santa Cruz, who held a master’s in English and was fluent in French and Spanish, had a much-stronger-than-average grasp on language, a coveted characteristic in a department attracting researchers from around the globe, especially from Japan.

Dr. Barbara Miller ’83, now executive director of recruitment and admissions, was hired as a clinical instructor and part-time research assistant in the department during those early years. The two shared an office, which allowed Miller to witness an interesting phenomenon.

“As our department grew in size, Jeanne became our resident editor in chief,” Miller recalled during Santa Cruz’s retirement reception, which was March 9. “I observed that there seemed to be a continuous stream of characters lining up in our office. Jeanne must have edited thousands of pages of manuscripts, lab manuals and grant proposals.” Santa Cruz was the only person in the department with a computer on her desk, so all the word processing for everything was done by her.

“She has helped many of us — including me — become great scientists.”

—Dr. Yongbo “Bob” Liu

Over the years, the dental materials department evolved into biomaterials sciences, then merged with Restorative Dentistry. Eventually, Santa Cruz moved to biomedical sciences, where her mere presence in the department became a selling point to potential faculty, and graduate and doctoral students.

Dr. Paul Dechow, Regents Professor and associate dean for academic affairs, worked closely with her during his time as chair of biomedical sciences.

“Jeanne was a very unusual resource to have in an academic research department because of her expertise in English language, editing and her extraordinary helpfulness,” Dechow said. “As we hired more and more faculty who didn’t speak English as their first language, she became essential to helping them mold and craft their papers and grants.”

Santa Cruz even taught an ESL scientific writing course to new faculty and graduate students.

“She was responsible for cleaning up so many of our grants and papers and has been a big part of the department’s success because of that,” Dechow said.

“I heard of her before I came here,” said Dr. Yongbo “Bob” Lu, assistant professor in biomedical sciences. “I still remember Dr. Feng saying, ‘We have a secretary in the biomedical sciences department. She will proofread your manuscripts,’” Lu shared to knowing laughter from attendees.

Lu is just one beneficiary of Santa Cruz, who always was willing to help.

“Jeanne not only read my manuscripts and grant proposals, she has also been my English teacher,” Lu said. “She has helped many of us — including me — become great scientists.”

— Jennifer Fuentes