David Shaw, PhD, to retire from UNMC

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations | July 27, 2020

Image with caption: David Shaw, PhD

David Shaw, PhD

Over the years, it became apparent to the colleagues and co-workers of David Shaw, PhD, that the versatile professor filled quite a few different roles at the UNMC College of Dentistry.

Oral biology department chair.

Commencement planning committee.

College of Dentistry safety and hazardous materials committee.

Co-chair of the MSIA Graduate program.



Interim associate dean for research.

Each role was a reflection of the dedication, professionalism and diligence Dr. Shaw exhibits daily in his work.


An outdoor retirement reception honoring Dr. David Shaw will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 31 on the lawn of the UNMC College of Dentistry in Lincoln. Due to restrictions of the pandemic, the reception is being held outdoors, on the lawn, and those who attend must wear a mask and adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

In recognition of all those roles, Dr. Shaw's co-workers surprised him recently with hats of varying shapes and sizes, each with a title card attached recognizing a different responsibility.

That fun and friendly gesture, Dr. Shaw said, speaks volumes about the unique culture at the college of dentistry, a collegial environment that served as the stage for his 51 years of full-time service.

On July 31, Dr. Shaw will don a new cap when he officially retires.

"I've enjoyed it immensely, and that's why I've stayed as long as I have," Dr. Shaw said.

Reminiscing about his time at the college, Dr. Shaw describes teaching students using opaque projectors and acetate overheads, upgrading to 35mm slideshows and finally mastering Power Point and online teaching.

"We are always responding to the needs of our students and their learning styles and as technology changed I tried to incorporate it into my teaching," he said.

Early in his career, Dr. Shaw had an active, funded research program in dental pharmacology and published more than 45 papers and contributed to four books and 37 abstracts.

Along with serving on numerous internal committees, Dr. Shaw also served as a consultant to the American Dental Association as an accreditation site visitor traveling to 30 dental schools across the country as part of their accreditation process.

"I gleaned great insight into how other dental schools were educating their students and brought those ideas back to the college," he said.

Dr. Shaw also was an active member of numerous professional organizations, including: the American Dental Association, American Association of Oral Biologists, American Society for Cell Biology, and the American Dental Education Association, among others.

During his tenure at the College of Dentistry, Dr. Shaw has seen the college undergo numerous remodeling projects, from the upgrades to teaching spaces, the north and south clinics, research labs, and most recently the pre-clinic lab that features a modern simulation lab for the students.

Through it all, Dr. Shaw said he's had the pleasure to work with an incredible team of faculty and staff, some of whom retired after 30 and 40 years of service.

"Those relationships have sustained me through the years, along with the support of five deans who have all given me the opportunity to work with whatever gifts I have in various capacities and that has made my time here so positive," Dr. Shaw said.

Yet there is another chapter to his life that includes long overdue visits to family in Michigan and San Diego, a honey-do list at home and spending time with grandchildren.

Dr. Shaw said he still plans to make himself available to help out at the College of Dentistry now and then if he is called upon to do so.

It's that spirit of service that UNMC College of Dentistry Dean Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, said is a part of Dr. Shaw's legacy.

"Dr. David Shaw leaves a legacy of excellence in education and leadership after 51 years of service to the UNMC College of Dentistry," Dean Guthmiller said.

"As an educator, he has demonstrated great passion and commitment to helping students grow into tomorrow's leaders in oral health care. He also has helped countless faculty and staff members grow professionally and achieve their own success," she said, adding that through his leadership and mentorship, Dr. Shaw has played a vital role in the college's research mission and efforts to advance dental education.

"On behalf of the entire college, I would like to express my sincere thanks, appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Shaw for his years of devotion to the college and his relentless pursuit of excellence in support of our collegiate mission."


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Larry D. Crouch, Ph.D.
July 30, 2020 at 2:27 PM

More than twenty years ago when I was seeking a position at UNMC, a faculty member who was interviewing me said "Dr. Shaw has always been truthful with me and he has always supported me whenever he could." For all the years since then, whenever I have interviewed someone who wished to join the Oral Biology department, I have said those same words regarding Dr. Shaw. In addition to being truthful and supportive, Dr. Shaw has been a powerful and tireless advocate for our students, staff, faculty, the College of Dentistry, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Nebraska and the health care professions. From departmental operations all the way to national professional meetings, Dr. Shaw's well-reasoned, fair-minded perspectives have always been sought out, valued and respected. David Shaw retires as a giant in the history of UNMC's mission "to lead the world in transforming lives."

Teresa Powell
July 28, 2020 at 9:21 AM

It has been a privilege working for Dr. Shaw for the past four and a half years. His leadership and wisdom have been very much appreciated. He will be greatly missed. My best wishes to Dr. Shaw for a happy, healthy, and relaxing retirement!!

Laura Bilek
July 28, 2020 at 6:56 AM

A great man and mentor. You will be greatly missed, Dave. Enjoy retirement.

Pam Carmines
July 27, 2020 at 11:43 AM

We will miss Dave's dedication to graduate student training at UNMC, especially in his roles as co-director of the MSIA program and director of the MSIA-Oral Biology subplan. He has been a valued contributor to the Graduate Council over the years. Enjoy retirement!!!!

Patrick Wortmann
July 27, 2020 at 11:13 AM

I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Shaw for over 27 years. I started out as a young kid working in Environmental Health and Safety and found Dr. Shaw to be kind, considerate, and supportive of the work we were trying to do. He has been a staunch supporter of EHS ever since. Will will definitely miss your guidance and help. Congratulations and good luck.

Tom Petro
July 27, 2020 at 9:32 AM

It has been a pleasure to have Dr. Shaw as our Dept. Chair for my entire career at UNMC. I started in 1987 and Dr. Shaw was the first person that I met as I arrived at the Lincoln Airport for my interview then. Dr. Shaw's chairmanship was one of calm consistency, supportive mentorship, and timely encouragement. His leadership at the College of Dentistry in all the other roles that he assumed is likely to be unmatched. Thank you Dr. Shaw for your leadership, mentorship, and friendship. Your friend, Tom Petro

Tom O’Connor
July 27, 2020 at 9:27 AM

Wow, kudos to Dr. Shaw! What an incredible legacy he leaves behind!

Larry Mitchell
July 27, 2020 at 8:49 AM

Congratulations Dr. Shaw and Thanks for all you've done for me as well as all the students and faculty you've impacted. You will be missed. Larry Mitchell MD DDS class of 1979

Dr Brian Lange
July 22, 2020 at 9:04 AM

It is unusual to find someone that works 51 years, let alone someone that has the same employer for 51 years. It is also unusual to be a major contributor to your organization for 51 years, yet that describes David Shaw. As his years of service grew, so did his responsibilities and his contributions to the College of Dentistry (COD) and the dental education profession. I think we all understand that a person is not assigned additional responsibilities if you are not performing at a high, sustained level. As he retires, he leaves many roles (jobs) to be filled. He has served as the Oral Biology Chair for thirty three years. The fifteen faculty in the department have diverse teaching and research responsibilities. Faculty are responsible for teaching basic sciences, patient management, practice management, pathology, and radiology. The department staff of seven support faculty, service programs (i.e. Biomonitoring), and research. Other COD responsibilities include: • Served as the Co-Chair of the MSIA Oral Biology Graduate Program since 2000 and lead the supervision of many master’s and Ph.D. student programs. • Chaired the UNMC Lincoln Commencement Committee for 29 years which organized the commencement ceremony for the dental hygiene, dental, and nursing students. • Served as the college’s interim Associate Dean for Research for the last four and a half years. • Served as chair of the Hazardous Materials and Safety Committee for 27 years. On the national scene: • Served on many Commission on Dental Accreditation teams responsible for evaluating basic science programs at dental schools. • Served significant roles within the American Dental Education Association and American Dental Association. His contributions to the College, the University, and the profession have been significant and sustained. I worked alongside Dave for over forty four years as faculty members, department chairs, and as a member of his department. I have found David Shaw to be: Dedicated, Available, Vigorous, Independent, Dependable, Scholarly, Hardworking, Attentive, Watchful. As you move into retirement, remember that age is an issue of mind over matter. Dave, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Ali Nawshad, PhD
July 22, 2020 at 9:02 AM

When Dr. Shaw revealed to our department that he was going to retire, you could hear a pin drop as we all sat in silence and disbelief. There will be no “good-bye” for you, Dr. Shaw, just “Thank you.” We all will miss coming to your office and hearing you say “Howdy” and greet us with a smile. Dr. Shaw is a visionary leader who ran oral biology for forty years and came to personify oral biology as the most cohesive, unified, and successful department at the COD. The most striking quality of Dr. Shaw is his ability to treat everybody with dignity, pristine fairness, and respect. He values everybody, he nurtured faculty and staff, and he challenged conventional wisdom and solicited ideas from everybody. Dr. Shaw’s finest attribute is his colossal “wisdom” that came from vast experience – a wisdom you could always trust in knowing that he would always steer you to what is best for you. Every single action of his is transparent and just. There is no ounce of arrogance or pride in him and his mind is completely clear from any inequity. He never humbles his colleagues for a mistake, rather he always inspires, guides, and praises them to succeed. The value of shared spirit is deeply instilled in the oral biology department psyche and family, and we will honor him by continuing his virtues, principle, and teachings. I wish you good luck and success in all of your future endeavors. Happy retirement, Dr. Shaw.

Joan Sivers, DDS
July 22, 2020 at 9:02 AM

Dr. Shaw has made a remarkable impact on the College of Dentistry for five decades! He is truly one of the great leaders of our college. He has provided wise guidance through good times, as well as challenging times. As a long time department chair, he has helped guide the careers of many faculty and guided the professional development of many dedicated staff members. Remarkably, he has also been instrumental in helping develop those in other departments to become college leaders. He is always the leader that can ask the “hard questions” and stimulate the thinking on all sides of important issues. I am so appreciative for being able to work with him and have developed a great respect for his wisdom, calm demeanor, and great institutional memory. He is truly an outstanding leader who has maintained his enthusiasm for all aspects of teaching and administration! Although his retirement will leave a tremendous void at the College of Dentistry, we wish him and his wife, JoAnne, all of the best as he formally retires.

Bev Hulsebusch
July 22, 2020 at 9:01 AM

I was a scared but eager 18-year-old when I first met Dr. Shaw in 1971. Fresh from business school and starting my first secretarial position at the College of Dentistry. I didn't work directly for Dr. Shaw until a couple of years later when I became the Secretary for the Department of Oral Biology. Professional, honest, trustworthy, fair and compassionate are just a few adjectives that come to mind when describing Dr. Shaw. Those qualities have not waivered over his 50 years of service. Knowing Dr. Shaw has also allowed me to be a friend to Joanne, and that is a blessing on its own. "Thank you" to Joanne for sharing Dr. Shaw with the College of Dentistry family.

Aimin Peng, PhD
July 22, 2020 at 9:00 AM

I still remember meeting Dr. Shaw for the first time during my job interview, back in 2009. A take-away of my visit then was that this department chair was welcoming and encouraging, and the faculty in the department had enormous respect for him. Over the past decade, as a member of the department, I absolutely appreciate the great leadership and mentorship of Dr. Shaw. As a leader, Dr. Shaw is fair, consistent, and visionary. As a mentor, Dr. Shaw is always supportive, and is an excellent resource for advices and wisdom. Honestly, I could not have asked for a better chair. I congratulate Dr. Shaw for his retirement, and wish him all the best.

Greg Oakley, PhD
July 22, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Dr. Shaw like Bobby Cox, the greatest manager to ever put on a baseball uniform, always had your back. If you were unsuccessful at something, you’d always get a smile and “You’ll get’em next time.” No one personified what it meant to be a big league department chair more than Dr. Shaw. Similar to Bobby Cox wearing his signature metal spikes to the end of his managerial career, Dr. Shaw wore his lab coat right up to retirement. That is part of his aura. I mean, it is hard to imagine Dr. Shaw in a t-shirt and shorts? Being a consummate leader and great mentor made me proud to be part of his team.

Nagamani Narayana, DMD
July 22, 2020 at 8:59 AM

I have known Dr. Shaw as a friend and departmental chair since July of 2003. I remember the day when Dr. Shaw and his wife drove me to the summer picnic on a Sunday afternoon in 2003, as I was new to Lincoln. He has always been a considerate and supportive supervisor, as well as a good listener. Whenever he was able, he facilitated changes in curriculum, course structure and the implementation of new ideas to improve teaching strategies. I still cannot believe that I have known him for 17 years and have never heard him raise his voice. I will miss him as my department chair and wish him the very best in his well-deserved retirement.

James Wahl III, PhD
July 22, 2020 at 8:58 AM

So many of us were fortunate enough to grow and achieve great success in the oral biology department. Dr. Shaw’s steady and thoughtful leadership provided the perfect environment for group of faculty with such diverse responsibilities and interests. Dr. Shaw’s expertise and his ability to provide (usually) gentle guidance and advice was always greatly appreciated. We will miss his wealth of experience and support in our college.

Marcia Bliss
July 22, 2020 at 8:57 AM

Not everyone has the opportunity to work for a boss like Dr. Shaw. It has been an honor and a privilege to work for him. Dr. Shaw wore so many different hats at the College of Dentistry. He was always asked to take on one thing after another, and, without grumbling he always did. With his knowledge and experience, he was the obvious person for people to come to. As busy as he always was he always made time to listen to everyone that came into his office. You never heard him complain as the obligations piled on one by one. He put his all into everything that was asked of him and made sure it was done right. Work ethics and accountability still mean something to Dr. Shaw and it shows in the respect he is given. He has always been supportive and understanding. You always knew when you went to him with a problem you would get a straight answer. He makes you feel appreciated. You just can’t say enough good things about this amazing boss. He will leave shoes hard to replace and will be missed by myself and anyone who has had the pleasure to work with him. I wish him and his family the very best and hope that retirement treats him to abundant blessings.

Gwen Hlava
July 22, 2020 at 8:56 AM

Dr. Shaw arrived at the College of Dentistry in 1969 and I entered the College as a dental hygiene student in 1970. Our friendship spans 50 years. If you visit Dr. Shaw’s office, you will see a pile of hats in the corner. There is a hard hat (COD construction), researcher hat, educator hat, cat in the hat, beanie with a whirling propeller (crazy days at the COD), Husker caps to wear while supporting the Huskers and his son Matt Shaw (member of the “94 Championship Football Team), administrator hat etc. As you might image, Dr. Shaw has worn practically every hat at the College of Dentistry over his 51 years. The one “prize’ hat he doesn’t possess but is being presented to him at his farewell reception is my white nurses cap that I wore as a student in the dental hygiene program. Dr. Shaw, your collection is now complete. You gave the department your two grand- daughters (Emily and Laura). They both graduated from the UNMC Dental Hygiene program in 2013 and 2016 and Laura is now pursuing dental school at UNMC. I will never say good-bye to my Mentor --- only it’s your turn now Dr. Shaw.