Colgate-Palmolive Company has made a generous $50,000 gift toward the establishment of the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship. The scholarship will pay tribute to prominent African American figures in the School’s history — Robert Tanner Freeman, DMD1869, George Franklin Grant, DMD1870, and Dolores Mercedes Franklin, DMD74. The funding will support a DMD student from an underrepresented minority group or with significant financial need.
The need for dentists representing all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds is critical. The percentage of African American dentists has not changed dramatically since 1970. While 12.6 percent of the U.S. population is African American, only 3.4 percent of the nation’s 230,000 dentists are according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
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. Dr. Freeman was in the School’s first graduating class of six in 1869 after the close of the Civil War. He is widely recognized as the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in dentistry. His auspicious career was cut short by his unfortunate death at age 27 just four years after graduation.
Dr. Grant graduated in 1870. Soon afterward he became the first African American faculty member of the University and the School. Internationally known, he invented an oblate palate for cleft palate patients and is widely regarded for his invention and patent of the modern golf tee. He counted among his patients such men at Harvard president Charles William Elliot.
Dr. Franklin was one of the first female graduates and the School’s first African American woman to graduate with a DMD in 1974. She earned an MPH at Columbia University in a joint degree program with Harvard and was a PD clinical fellow in dental public health at HSDM. Her career has spanned leadership positions in academia, industry and public policy, breaking the glass ceiling for both gender and race. She blazed the trail as assistant dean at New York University College of Dentistry – the nation’s largest dental school; the highest ranking dentist executive at the former Sterling Drug, Inc. — a world leader in the development of local anesthetics; and as assistant commissioner in New York City and later with dual reporting to the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation – the nation’s largest urban healthcare agency. Dr. Franklin became a consultant and researcher for the U.S. Department of Labor and the Colgate-Palmolive Company, a clinical professor, author, and an advocate for oral health as integral to overall health. She served on the Board of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) as the HSDM representative, and was a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnae Award from HSDM and the Harvard University Alumni Achievement Award for Excellence in Dental Medicine from the HAA and the Black Harvard Alumni Society.
Colgate’s gift will help ensure that HSDM is able to admit the best and the brightest students regardless of their ability to pay. To find out more about supporting the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship, contact Wanda Mock.