May 18, 2020
Henry A. Gremillion, D.D.S., MAGD, who started life in a Louisiana orphanage and soared to the pinnacles of his profession in dental education, died Monday after a brief illness. He was 68.
Dr. Gremillion’s death was announced by his school, the Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Dentistry (LSUSD), where he had served as Dean since 2008. Dr. Gremillion was also the Immediate Past Chair of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Board of Directors.
“Dental education has lost a true gentleman, scholar and friend,” says Karen P. West, D.M.D., M.P.H., ADEA President and CEO. “His death is a terrible loss to all of us, but we take comfort in knowing that his contributions to dental education and to ADEA will live on. He was a class act and will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”
Dr. Gremillion’s achievements were many, and his mark on the LSUSD was particularly impressive. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow to New Orleans, he led the effort to improve the learning environment for students, bringing to fruition state-of-the-art preclinical laboratories.
Those efforts were recognized by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who released a statement in tribute to Dr. Gremillion.
“A Louisiana native, dedicated doctor and nationally recognized educator, Dr. Gremillion inspired countless dental students throughout his time as dean of the state’s only dental school,” the governor says. “His vision steered the school through expansions and renovations so that students can practice their skills in the most advanced preclinical labs in America. I ask every to join Donna and me in praying for his family, friends, colleagues and students during this difficult time.”
Dr. Gremillion’s tenure as Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors ended just last month. He was set to address the 2020 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in March, but that event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his prepared speech, which will be printed in full in the July issue of the Journal of Dental Education, Dr. Gremillion addressed the fast-changing nature of dental education and dental practice.
“We must anticipate change and recognize the importance of disruptive innovation,” Dr. Gremillion advised, “while continuing to be visionary, constantly monitoring changes in our environment from numerous perspectives: economics, cultural, political, education, demographic (to include patients, faculty, students and other stakeholders), and social (on local, regional, national and global levels).”
His ability to inspire others and blaze a new path for dental education resulted in many accolades over the years, including the LSUSD Alumnus of Year in 2001, the school’s highest alumnus award, and the University of Florida College of Dentistry Teacher of the Year in 2002 and 2007. He was also the recipient of the 2015 Pierre Fauchard Academy’s Fauchard Gold Medal, which is presented annually to a dentist in the United States who has made outstanding contributions to the progress and standing of the dental profession.
For all his achievements, Dr. Gremillion was remembered as well for his warmth and accessibility.
“Despite his national stature, Dr. Gremillion easily related to people from all walks of life,” says Larry Hollier, M.D., Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. “Students, faculty, patients, members of the community, elected officials, local, state and national leaders all found him approachable, respectful, caring, engaged and down to earth.”
Indeed, Dr. Gremillion never forgot his own humble beginnings. In a speech to the ADEA House of Delegates in 2018, when he served as Chair-elect of the ADEA Board, Dr. Gremillion movingly described his adoption from an orphanage at the age of 7 months and his upbringing in Cottonport, LA, a small farming community. He spoke of finding his birth family at the age of 66 and of the loving family life he enjoyed with his wife, “Mackey,” whom he met when both were students at LSU.
“I would say that if I had to sum the journey that my life has been in one word, it would be blessed,” Dr. Gremillion said.
In addition to his wife of 45 years, Dr. Gremillion is survived by daughters Erin G. Jackson (Brad) of Tampa, FL, and Lindsay G. Maples (Andy) of Ponte Vedra, FL; and sons Alan Gremillion (Sarah) of Jupiter, FL, and Scott Gremillion (Wendy) of River Ridge, LA, along with 10 grandchildren.
Read tributes and memories from individuals who had worked with Dr. Gremillion over the years.