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February 20, 1997

Edward J. Forrest

Edward J. Forrest, who served as dean of Pitt's School of Dental Medicine from 1961 to 1983, died Feb. 11, 1997, of cancer. He was 79.

A resident of Sewickley, Forrest brought numerous changes to the School of Dental Medicine during his tenure as dean, including an exchange program with 28 countries that has become a recognized leader in international dental circles.

Under Forrest's leadership, the school also launched its dental assistant-oral hygiene program, strengthened its graduate and continuing education programs, and created specialty programs in anesthesia, oral surgery, orthodontics, pedodontics and prosthodontics.

Changes initiated by Forrest gave Pitt's School of Dental Medicine one of the largest graduate and post-graduate enrollments in the country by 1970.

Friends at the dental school, however, recall Forrest mainly as a "people person." Dennis Ranalli, executive director of Dental Alumni Affairs, said Forrest was gregarious, well-liked and treated everyone with dignity and respect.

"He considered those of us in the dental school as part of his extended family," Ranalli said. "He wanted us to treat each other as family, but he also was a very innovative dental educator who, I think, probably was ahead of his time." Forrest was interested not only in improving the School of Dental Medicine, according to Ranalli, but also in improving life in the region, the state and even the world. As part of the school's outreach program, he brought several top Vietnamese dentists to Pitt during the Vietnam War. Born in Jefferson County, Forrest was the youngest of three children, all of whom became dentists. His brother Stephen was dean of the St. Louis University Dental School.

Forrest earned a B.S. from Pitt in 1939. An avid football fan, he gained fame as an undergraduate for leading a protest against the resignation of legendary Pitt football coach Jock Sutherland. A photograph in a 1938 issue of Look magazine shows Forrest protesting Sutherland's resignation from atop the shoulders of another student.

In addition to being a football coach, Sutherland was a dentist who taught in Pitt's dental school.

Later, as dean, Forrest often helped to recruit football players to Pitt with information about opportunities at the School of Dental Medicine.

While still an undergraduate, Forrest began studying for a doctor of dental surgery degree that he earned from what was then the University of Pittsburgh School of Dentistry in 1941. Following his graduation from the dental school, Forrest served in the Army's Dental Corps in World War II. At the end of the war, he established a private dental practice and began teaching at the University. In 1949, he earned an M.S. from Pitt and in 1953 a Ph.D. in philosophy.

In 1957, Forrest left Pitt to become assistant dean at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. He could not get Pittsburgh out of his blood, however, and commuted back to the city on weekends to visit family and maintain his practice.

When Pitt was looking for a dean of the dental school in 1961, Forrest jumped at the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh. Even after stepping down as dean in 1983, he remained active in the school through the mid-1980s.

Forrest is survived by his wife, Alice; a daughter, Cynthia of Washington, D.C.; two sons, Edward Jr. of Marietta, Ga., and Thomas of Ben Avon; and three grandchildren.

Memorial donations can be made to the Edward J. Forrest Continuing Education Center, School of Dental Medicine, 440 Salk Hall.

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