To the RSDM family:
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Dr. Anthony R. Volpe. A member of the school’s inaugural class of 1960, and a towering figure in the world of dental research and global health, Dr. Volpe was a fixture at RSDM. Even with his busy schedule, traveling the world in pursuit of the best oral health preventive therapeutics, he was sure to be at all of our activities and events. While he loved to reminisce about his journeys, his favorite place was the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Volpe was a role model, mentor and friend to many, who supported the school in innumerable ways, including his many scholarship donations and other gifts. Better known as “Uncle Tony,’’ during each visit to the school, he forged genuine connections with staff, faculty, and especially, students. For decades, he was a speaker at our White Coat Ceremony, where he personally greeted each student and vowed to remember their names so he could send them off at convocation four years later. This year, his biggest disappointment was not being to participate in convocation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Always curious and warm-hearted, he mingled with students during our scholarship receptions, listening to their stories and sharing his own experience as the son of Italian immigrants. He gave seminars introducing students to career options through Expanding Your Horizons Lunch and Learning series and delivered to our graduates their school pins after they received their diploma.
Dr. Volpe possessed a great deal of humility, but in the field of dentistry and public health, he was a pioneer whose influence was profound. Until his retirement in 2012, he was head of Global Oral Healthcare and Scientific Affairs at Colgate-Palmolive for more than five decades. He played a key role in building Colgate’s reputation as the most influential dental industrial company in the world and was visionary in establishing ties between industry, academic research and oral biology. At Colgate, he conducted studies on the efficacy of certain types of fluoride and other compounds that would become active ingredients in the brand’s products. Among his many lasting contributions to the field of dentistry is the co-creation of the Volpe-Manhold Index, a now-standard method of measuring dental calculus.
During his long career Dr. Volpe, a tireless public health champion, conducted clinical research around the world on the effects of dental caries and preventive care, interacting with all of the major global dental organizations. He authored more than 250 scientific publications and presentations worldwide and secured several patents in dental science from the U.S. government.
Raised in Newark’s North Ward, Dr. Volpe attended Seton Hall University, majoring in chemistry before joining the Army and serving as a first lieutenant in the military police during the Korean War. In 1956, he decided to pursue a dental career and enrolled in the Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry in Jersey City, which later became RSDM. After graduation, he opened a dental practice in Nutley before joining Colgate-Palmolive. He lived in Franklin Township, Somerset County, with his wife, Marlene, who pre-deceased him June of this year.
Over the years, Dr. Volpe received many honors and accolades. In recognition of his achievements, the dental research center of the American Dental Association, located on the grounds of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland was recently renamed the Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center.
He served on technical committees of major worldwide dental organizations, including the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the American Dental Association (ADA),
the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federation Dentaire Internationale (FDI).
He was also president of the Essex County Dental Association, Vice-President and Trustee of the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey and Editor of the Journal of the New Jersey Dental Association. From 1997 to 2003, he served as president of the American Dental Association Foundation and was presented in 2004 with the American Dental Association’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2004, he was further honored to receive the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s Special Merit Award and the Hadassah Special Award from the Hebrew University, Israel.
Our deepest condolences go out to Dr. Volpe’s family. A follow-up email will include information on where donations can be accepted.
Cecile A. Feldman, DMD, MBA
Dean, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine