The Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship

Dr. Freeman, Dr. Grant, and Dr. Franklin

The Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship supports underrepresented minority students, with financial need, pursuing their predoctoral (DMD) program at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. The scholarship pays tribute to prominent African American figures in HSDM's history—Robert Tanner Freeman, DMD1869, George Franklin Grant, DMD1870, and Dolores Mercedes Franklin, DMD1974. In January 2021, the scholarship was activated with a capstone gift from Colgate-Palmolive Company making it possible to begin providing financial support to a student in this year's incoming class. The scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis.


The Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) was an early proponent of diversity in dentistry. It was the very first dental school in the country to accept African American students. Robert Tanner Freeman, DMD1869, was a member of the School’s first class of six in 1867. In 1869 he was the first African American in the nation to graduate from a dental school. He was the son of a carpenter who had bought his family’s freedom. His liberation from racial discrimination revolutionized dentistry for the African-American community.

George Franklin Grant, DMD1870, became the first African American faculty member of Harvard University and the School in 1884. He was internationally known for his work with cleft palates and invented a prosthetic device he called the Oblate Palate that allowed patients to speak and eat more normally. In addition, Grant was an avid golfer and is recognized by the U.S. Golf Association as the patented inventor of the modern day wooden golf tee. 

Dolores Mercedes Franklin, DMD1974, PD1976, was the first African American woman to graduate from HSDM. She earned an MPH at Columbia University in a joint degree program with Harvard and was a postdoctoral clinical fellow in Dental Public Health at HSDM. She blazed the trail as assistant dean at New York University College of Dentistry – the nation’s largest dental school and was the highest ranking dental executive at the former Sterling Drug, Inc. She’s been an assistant commissioner in New York City (NYC) and had dual reporting to the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation – the nation’s largest urban healthcare agency. She became a consultant and researcher for the U.S. Department of Labor and Colgate, a clinical professor, an author, and an advocate for oral health as integral to overall health.

Diversity in Dentistry

The need for dentists representing all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds is critical. The percentage of African American dentists has not changed dramatically since 1970. African Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, but only 3.8 percent of the nation’s dentists, according to 2015 statistics from the American Dental Association (ADA). The scholarship helps ensure that HSDM is able to admit the best and brightest students regardless of their ability to pay. Gifts to expand the funding available to scholarship recipients can be made online by choosing the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship from the drop-down menu.