Honoring Black History at the School of Dentistry | February Dean's Message

Earl S. Weber, DDS

In 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as the Association of African American Life and History. In 1926, this association sponsored a national Negro History Week, which occurred the second week in February, the same week of Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’s birthday. Then, in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month.

In the spirit of observance, I would like to acknowledge two of our African American alumni and qualify this recognition by stating that there are many others to recognize.

Dean's MessageI acknowledge and recognize Dr. Earl S. Weber as the first Black graduate from the University of Minnesota Dental College (School of Dentistry) in 1921. He was the first Black student to graduate from the academic program at St. Thomas Academy (University of St. Thomas) in 1916 and was a corporal in the University's Student Army Training Corps program. He served as a sergeant of the Second Battalion in the military and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In World War I, Dr. Weber served as a private in the Army and again in World War II as a dentist. In 1950, he was recognized in the Who's Who In Colored America. Dr. Weber was a resident in the heart of the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul on Victoria St. North and maintained a practice in that area.

I also recognize Dr. Grace Warren, a native of Minneapolis and a 1983 graduate from the School of Dentistry, previously earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Warren is one of only two African American women in Minneapolis to own and operate a dental practice. Within her practice she reinforces the fact that oral health impacts overall health. She enjoys mentoring younger people, and in 2019 she spent time engaging with our Student National Dental Association, which was well received. We are proud that Dr. Warren has provided oral health care in South Minneapolis since 1984.

In 1976, when Gerald Ford declared February as Black History Month, he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This month is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge our first Black graduate and one of our African American alumnae who has positively impacted our community. As stated earlier, there are several individuals to highlight, but it is impossible to honor everyone by name in this brief message. The accomplishments of our African American alumni have had a positive impact on our community and our profession, and I am thankful for their dedication and commitment.

More University of Minnesota Black History Month resources: