Honoring Dean Emeritus Ralph McDonald, DDS, MS, LLD (Hon)

Pioneer of Pediatric Dentistry



The Indiana University School of Dentistry joins the family of Ralph E. McDonald, DDS, MS, LLD (Hon.), in mourning his passing on Feb. 20, 2015, at age 94.

Considered by many as a pioneer in pediatric dentistry, Dr. McDonald served with great distinction as dean of the Indiana University School of Dentistry from 1968 to 1985.

An internationally renowned pediatric dental educator, Dr. McDonald was pivotal in developing what is now known as the pediatric dentistry graduate program in the department of pediatric dentistry at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. He authored or co-authored at least 21 textbooks in addition to his many other published articles. Before and after his retirement, he was editor of the prestigious journal Pediatric Dentistry.

“Dean McDonald’s legacy and incredible contributions to the field of pediatric dentistry will live on through his residents and his groundbreaking textbook,” said Indiana University School of Dentistry Dean John N. Williams. “As Dean, he opened up access to dental care and improved the health of citizens around the state by developing the regional campuses.”

Born in Indianapolis, Dr. McDonald received three degrees from IU: BS 1942, DDS 1944 and MS 1951. During his years as dean, the dental school’s teaching and research facilities greatly expanded. Groundbreaking for the second addition to the building took place in the early 1970s, and the school doubled in size. Dental hygiene, dental assisting or dental laboratory technology programs were added to the regional campuses. He promoted a flexible curriculum that allowed dental students to gain clinical experience before their third year.

After retirement, Dr. McDonald continued as editor of Pediatric Dentistry for a number of years, and until recently, remained as co-author of the textbook Dentistry for the Child and Adolescent, which he created and originally published in 1963 as the textbook Pedodontics. With this year’s 10th edition of the textbook, it continues as the world’s longest-running children’s dentistry textbook. 

Sarah Jane, his loving wife of nearly 58 years, preceded Dr. McDonald in death in 2000. Surviving are his children, all graduates of the IU School of Dentistry: Dr. John (Barbie) McDonald, Cincinnati, Ohio; Dr. Scott (Arlene) McDonald, Fishers, Ind.; and Barbara (Jeff) Dean, Indianapolis, along with seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and Joanne Muncey, his devoted companion.

Visitation will be held from 4:00-8:00 p.m., Wed., Feb. 25, with a calling at 10 a.m., followed by services at 11:00 a.m., Thurs., Feb. 26, both at Flanner and Buchanan Washington Park North Funeral Center, 2706 Kessler Blvd. West Dr., Indianapolis. Entombment at Crown Hill Cemetery will follow. There will be a celebration of life reception at the Bloomington Meadowood Retirement Center for his Bloomington friends on Sunday, March 1, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. 

Dr. McDonald was a lifelong IU supporter and sports enthusiast. In recent months, he received many caring calls and cards from the countless students, faculty and friends he touched in his long and full life.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Indiana University Ralph E. McDonald Professorship in Pediatric Dentistry and mailed to Ms. Pamela Lovejoy, IU Foundation Accounts Manager, IU School of Dentistry, 1121 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, Ind., 46202.