In Memoriam: Dr. Wesley Dunn, founding dean of Dentistry

Dr. Wesley John Dunn was the founding dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at Western University.

Western University is mourning the passing of Dr. Wesley John Dunn, founding dean of Dentistry and a pillar of organized dentistry in Canada.

In 1965, Dr. Dunn was appointed dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at Western University, founding Ontario’s second ever dental school. For more than 17 years, his leadership led to the growth and success of the faculty and instilled in it an ongoing tradition of exceptional mentorship, community and enterprise.

“As the first dean of Dentistry, Dr. Dunn’s impact as a leader at the School is immeasurable. He was an exceptional clinician and mentor,” said Dr. John Yoo, dean of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.  “At a time when his profession was experiencing unprecedented growth and innovation, Dr. Dunn stepped up to the challenge. The impact of his legacy is deeply reflected in our School, its leadership, our alumni and Canadian dentistry at large.”

Prior to his appointment as dean, Dr. Dunn had already secured his reputation as a voice for the profession. After graduating with a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Toronto in 1947, he became assistant editor of the Journal of the Ontario Dental Association, then taking on the role of editor of Oral Health, and eventually becoming the editor of the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. Dr. Dunn remains the only dentist in Canadian history to hold an editorial position with three of Canada’s four major dental journals.

Throughout  his career, Dr. Dunn was involved in a number of roles in the Canadian and Ontario Dental Association and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDS), influencing education and practice across the country. He is the only person to have served as both as Registrar (1956-65) and President (1989-91) of the RCDS. He was awarded the Ontario Dental Association’s Barnabus W. Day Award in 1988, honouring his decades of sustained and outstanding contributions to Dentistry. 

In a publication entitled “The First 125 Years,” celebrating important people and events in their history, the Royal College wrote Dr. Dunn, “is a person who likes to start things. It is a good thing that he does, for in his professional career he has started a great number of them.”

Dr. Dunn was a founding member of the Canadian Society of Dentistry for Children. He was also the founding director of Canadian Dental Service Plans Incorporated, a dental post-payment plan. He was the very first dentist appointed to the Ontario Council on Health. 

His advocacy work was not limited to dentistry and he had an impact on many facets of life within his community. Dr. Dunn sat on the board of directors for organizations such as London Health Sciences Centre, United Community Services, the Ontario Commission on Interuniversity Athletics, London YWCA/YMCA, the Children’s Health Foundation and others. 

Dr. Dunn remained an active professor emeritus at Western, and was awarded the Alumni of Distinction Award in 2004, and Western’s Alumni Association Award of Merit in 2009. He was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws by the university that same year, in recognition of remarkable contributions to the school and to the profession of dentistry.

Dr. Dunn passed away on Nov. 15 at the age of 96. A memorial notice can be found here.