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In Memoriam: John Dennis

14 March 2013 No Comment
Former School of Medicine Dean John Dennis with current dean E. Albert Reece (Photo by Mark Teske)

Former School of Medicine Dean John Dennis with current dean E. Albert Reece (Photo by Mark Teske)


John Dennis, MD ’45, dean of the School of Medicine from 1974 to 1990, died on Jan. 17. 

“His extraordinary work is an inspiration, and we are indebted to him for his fine leadership of the School of Medicine and his dedication to this campus,” says E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, dean of the School of Medicine, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. 

Dennis was born on the Eastern Shore, and upon completing his MD at the University of Maryland (UM) School of Medicine, he joined the U.S. Army School of Roentgenology and served as chief of radiology at Station Hospital, Langley Air Force Base, Va. 

Dennis returned to the School of Medicine for his residency, completed a two-year fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, then returned to Maryland for good in 1951, becoming an instructor and later associate professor. 

He became the first full-time chair of the Department of Radiology in 1953, a role he served in until he was appointed dean of the School of Medicine in 1974. He also was appointed UM’s vice chancellor for health affairs in 1975 and vice president for academic affairs in 1983. The University named Dennis dean emeritus in 1990 and professor emeritus in diagnostic radiology in 1995. Dennis also served as interim chancellor/president of the University in 1984. 

Under his leadership, the School of Medicine developed into a major research institution, increasing faculty and research support, especially in the field of biomedical research. Dennis stewarded the development of the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center as well as the Area Health Education Centers, which expose students to primary care, public health, and the needs of rural and underserved populations. He also chaired the ad-hoc committee responsible for the faculty practice plan, today called Faculty Physicians, Inc.

In addition to his duties as dean, Dennis was active in his field of radiology. He served as president of the American College of Radiology, which honored him with the Gold Medal for distinguished and extraordinary service. 

Other honors include an honorary ScD from the University in 1993; the Gold Medal of the American Roentgen Ray Society; the Medical Alumni Association’s Honor Award and Gold Key, and its Distinguished Service Award; and the Andrew White Medal from Loyola University Maryland. Dennis was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the University of Maryland’s 1984 alumnus of the year. 

“Having given nearly 50 years of service to the University, including 17 years as dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Dennis will be greatly missed,” says Reece. 

Dennis was an avid golfer, accomplished watercolorist, and enjoyed crafting furniture. He is survived by his wife, Mary Helen, four children, and seven grandchildren.

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