Former dean of UNMC College of Dentistry dies at age 83

August 02, 2019

Image with caption: Stephen Leeper, D.D.S.

Stephen Leeper, D.D.S.

Stephen Leeper, D.D.S., the seventh dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, died July 14. He was 83.
 
Dr. Leeper was integral to the College of Dentistry's history of excellence. A native of Hastings, Neb., and a third generation Nebraska dentist, Dr. Leeper received his doctor of dental surgery degree from the College of Dentistry in 1959, where he graduated first in his class. He received a master's of arts degree in speech science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
 
Dr. Leeper joined the college faculty in 1964 and taught removable prosthodontics. Before being named interim dean in 1988, Dr. Leeper served as chair of the department of adult restorative dentistry and as assistant dean of clinics. He served as dean from 1988-2000.
 
Some of his many accomplishments during his tenure at the college included the opening of the Cruzan Center for Dental Research, which allowed the college to increase its research activities; the reorganization of the college to six departments; and he initiated the development of a patient-centered, comprehensive care model.
 
"Dr. Leeper led major changes at the College of Dentistry. He was extremely loyal to the University of Nebraska and the Huskers. He was a wonderful person who formed lasting relationships," said Harold M. Maurer, M.D., UNMC chancellor emeritus and professor of pediatrics.
 
Dr. Leeper served in leadership roles for many organizations. In 1997, he was named a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Joint Commission for National Dental Examinations of the American Dental Association. He served as president of the Alpha Alpha Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon, the national dental honor society, in 1966, and was president of the Supreme Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon in 1995.
 
Dr. Leeper and his wife, Jan, founded the Lincoln Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 1975, and he served as president of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International from 1993-95. He was a fellow of the American and International College of Dentists and a member of the Nebraska Dental Association's Hall of Fame.
 
As a testament to the impact Dr. Leeper had on the field of dental education, the Supreme Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon named a national teaching award after him. The Stephen H. Leeper Award for Teaching Excellence is given annually to a dental educator who has displayed exemplary standards in dental pedagogy while demonstrating vision and advancement in dental education. This award challenges educators to strive for excellence and innovation in dental education.
 
"I was proud to be a recipient of the Stephen H. Leeper Award for Teaching Excellence, which was one of the greatest honors of my life. Dr. Leeper was one of the College of Dentistry's most treasured deans. He will be greatly missed," said Stanton D. Harn, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the College of Dentistry.
 
Dr. Leeper leaves a legacy of excellence and leadership in dental education.
 
"Dr. Leeper was a loyal and enthusiastic supporter of all things Nebraska - the state, the University of Nebraska, UNMC and especially the College of Dentistry. He encouraged excellence and growth during some very challenging times, and always kept a positive outlook for the future," said Joan Sivers, D.D.S., associate professor and assistant dean of clinics at the College of Dentistry. "He and his wife, Jan, worked diligently to promote a feeling of family among the college's students and employees. He will be missed by all who knew him,"
 
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