Smiles we remember: Dr. Suzi Seale
Dr. Suzi Seale has made an enduring difference in the professional paths of pediatric dentistry graduate students for more than four decades. With 23 years of leadership as department head, plus 17 as graduate program director, it’s safe to say the ’70 ’72 alumna came into contact with each and every one of them. Now her former students, as well as colleagues and friends, mourn her passing on April 14.
One of those former students is Dr. Alton McWhorter, who assumed the position of department head in 2009 when Seale stepped down from the position.
“Suzi was one of my mentors, not only in pediatric dentistry but also academics. Assuming the chairmanship when she stepped down was such an honor, but at the same time, daunting,” said McWhorter, who first met Seale in 1983 when he applied to graduate school. “I imagine she must have felt the same way when she followed Dr. Taylor in the position. The college and profession have lost a committed teacher and role model, and I have lost one of my really good friends.”
Just last spring, McWhorter handed her an $8,500 contribution from graduate students and colleagues toward the N. Sue Seale Endowed Professorship, a presentation made during her retirement reception in March 2017.
It was during that reception that Seale remarked on the impact that Texas A&M College of Dentistry had made on her life.
“It feels like I’ve spent my whole life at the college,” Seale said, musing at just how many times she had crossed Hall Street to the building since her first day of class in 1966. What started as a dental school education metamorphosed in 1974 to a faculty position.
“I was so lucky I got to stay right here for my career,” she added.
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. Lawrence Wolinsky, College of Dentistry dean, worked closely with Seale in efforts to establish the pediatric dentistry professorship in her honor, which was announced in May 2012, and is still accepting contributions and pledges.
“There is no one quite like Dr. Seale,” said Wolinsky. “She dedicated her life’s work to education, and as a result, her vision propelled our pediatric dentistry program into national prominence. Her unwavering dedication to children’s oral health created a ripple effect in the minds of those she taught, which continues today. She will be missed.
A memorial service for Seale will be June 23 at Northridge Presbyterian Church in Dallas.