‘End of an era’
Dr. N. Sue “Suzi” Seale’s first day of dental school was in 1966. That day — like many to follow — she crossed Hall Street to make her way into the building, then just four stories.
“I’m still walking across that same street 51 years later,” Seale said to an audience of colleagues, students, family and friends during a March 29 reception recognizing her retirement from Texas A&M College of Dentistry. “It’s hard to leave when you enjoy what you do, but it’s time. I was so lucky I got to stay right here for my career.”
What a career it has been.
At a time when only 1 percent of students in any given dental class were female, Seale ’70, ’72 (Pedo) forged her way in the profession, joining the college faculty in 1974. She went on to become chair of pediatric dentistry in 1986, a post she retained until 2009, in addition to her 17-year role as the department’s graduate program director.
During her tenure, Seale was named a Regents professor by the Texas A&M University System in 1997, an honor held by just nine of 5,000 faculty members at the time. That same year she received the Distinguished Alumna Award from the college’s Alumni Association, and in 2001 she was named Pediatric Dentist of the Year by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Foundation. Seale was inducted to the dental school’s Hall of Fame in 2010. Her leadership extended into organized dentistry with a role as president of the Texas Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and, on the research front, a known track record for her impassioned studies on primary tooth pulp.
Dr. Alton McWhorter ’85 (Pedo), current pediatric dentistry department head, first met Seale during his grad school interview in 1983, and has worked with her to some extent ever since.
“We developed this communication over the years. Right when I came back in 1986 to join the faculty, we figured out we needed to develop a special mode of communication that was clear to both of us,” McWhorter said.
Of her leaving, he added: “It’s the end of an era for the school, the end of an era for you, and the end of an era for me. I’m happy for you but heartbroken at the same time.”
McWhorter concluded his remarks by presenting Seale with a contribution of $8,500 from colleagues and students toward the N. Sue Seale Endowed Professorship, for which fundraising began in 2012.
Seale, a newlywed, will spend retirement with husband Dr. James Coll, a pediatric dentist she met through their mutual work with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. After marrying in April 2016, Seale says she has gained an entire family of children, grandchildren and siblings.
“It feels like I’ve spent my whole life at the college,” Seale said. “So I leave my Baylor family for my new family. I’ve got a beautiful life, and I truly saved the best for last.”