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Harry Lyons papers

Identifier: Acc. 23

Scope and Contents

The collection focuses on Lyons' writings, articles, clippings, photographs, and awards covering his professional career and tenure as Dean of the School of Dentistry, Medical College of Virginia, 1948-1979. The body of the collection is his papers and addresses. Lyons professional work was in periodontology, which deals with diseases of the gums These papers focus on problems and solutions related to this specialty, improving dental education, professional ethics. The collection also chronicles his gifts to the University and donations to local organizations. The collection does not include information regarding Lyons private dental practice or the official record of the School of Dentistry.


  • 1948-1987


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Harry Lyons was born in Washington DC on March 18, 1900. His father moved the family to Lexington, Virginia when Lyons was a year old. It was in Lexington that he was raised and went to school. After a year at Washington and Lee University in the Student Army Training Corps, he followed his sister's advice and transferred to the Medical College of Virginia where he graduated with a degree in dentistry in 1923.

Impressed with his strong knowledge, Dr. Cameron Hoogan, Dean of the School of Dentistry, offered Lyons a faculty position right after graduation. Remembering a professor's comparison of the beauty of a bicuspid to a young girl, Lyons decided to make an engagement ring out of a tooth in a black vulcanite setting. Sara Miriam Wice would accept his unusual ring and they were married for 41 years until her death in 1967.

Lyons worked as a full-time faculty member until 1928 when he started his own practice in periodontics. He continued to teach part time until 1950, progressing through the academic ranks to become a professor of periodontia and oral pathology. He would eventually become the periodontal department chair. Then in 1951, he accepted a challenge from MCV President Dr. William Sanger, to create the best dental school in the country, and became Dean of the School of Dentistry.

Lyons was active professionally and served as president of several state and national dental associations including the American Academy of Periodontology, the American Association of Dental Schools, and the American Dental Association. It was during his tenure as President of the ADA that the issue of fluoridation of water became a national debate. Lyons was frequently quoted in the press advocating the benefits of fluoridation. He was called to testify before several state legislatures as well as the United State Congress. In the end, Lyons efforts were successful as many states adopted his recommendations adding this element to their community water supplies.

Lyons was a prolific writer and contributor to dental literature with over thirty articles to his credit. These range from specific clinical dental procedures to advice on professional behavior and grooming. . Lyons continued to teach classes even after he became Dean. Lyons disliked facial hair and forbid MCV students from having moustaches and beards for years during his tenure. While Dean, Lyons wrote about the relationship between research and education, including ways to improve dental instruction. Lyons twice earned the William J. Gies award for the best paper in the Journal of Dental Research.

Throughout his career Lyons was recognized for his hard work and dedication to the dental profession. He received Distinguished Service Awards from four national dental associations. He was named a Laurate of Virginia, and given the Edward Wayne Medal for outstanding service to Virginia Commonwealth University in 1981. After over fifty years of dedication to MCV, Lyons was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1985. He also held four honorary doctoral degrees. Lyons married Doris Yingling, Dean of the School of Nursing in 1969.

Lyons retired as Dean in 1970, and was named Dean Emeritus. That same year, the new dental building was named in his honor. In addition VCU has named a scholarship, professorship, and an outstanding dental alumni award in his honor. Lyons established several endowments including a fund to support the School of Dentistry, libraries, and the VCU Center for Judaic Studies.

Lyons died April 15, 1997 and was buried in Hebrew Cemetery in Richmond, VA. At the time of his death, the School of Dentistry was ranked as one of the top ten in the country.


6.4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Records are arranged in chronological order.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Dr. Lyons over a span of several years. It includes accessioning numbers Acc 23, Acc 77, Acc 86, PF-176, PF-181, PF-182, PF-183 and 88/Mar/13.

A Guide to the Papers of Harry Lyons
A Collection in Special Collections and Archives, Health Sciences Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Accession number 23
Jody Romero
2005 By Virginia Commonwealth University. All Rights Reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the VCU Health Sciences Library Repository

Special Collections and Archives 509 N 12th St
Box 980582
Richmond Virginia 23298 USA US
(804) 828-9898