Past Recipient Profiles

Distinguished Alumni in Dentistry


James N. Theil, D.D.S. 
Dent '64

James TheilJim Thiel doesn’t describe himself as a scholar, but he

knows a good educational environment when he sees one.  Marquette’s dental school set the tone for my life,” he says. It gave me the tools to be successful.”

For Jim, success meant going on to earn his specialty of prosthodontics and master’s degree from Boston University Goldman School of Graduate Dentistry, holding teaching positions and becoming deeply involved in organized dentistry.

In fact, Jim has served as chairman and executive officer

of local and state dental societies, and just completed his 33rd year in leadership roles of the Yankee Dental

Congress, from chairing the event, originating live

television demonstrations and leading various committees.

For non-dentists, the Yankee Dental Congress is an annual convention where 30,000 people attend, more than 200 speak, conference-goers explore 950 exhibition booths and attend any of 125 social functions. It’s the fifth largest convention in the country and the largest of its kind in Boston. This year Jim chaired the team of 200 volunteers to oversee the convention’s move to a new location, the enormous Boston Convention Center.

In addition to his work with the Yankee Dental Congress, Jim serves leadership roles with the Massachusetts State Dental Society (and averaged two to three meetings a week with them this year).

And, yes, there are other dental-related organizations in which Jim remains involved, some international. And his service has earned him awards across the country. “When a person is recognized by one’s peers, it makes the efforts and time spent very much worthwhile,” he says.

Jim also enjoys hosting alumni receptions for Marquette’s School of Dentistry and Boston University’s dental school, maintains a private practice outside of Boston, and is a trustee of the Boston University Dental School.



Ronald D. Woody
Dent '63

Ronald Woody

After graduating from the Marquette University School of Dentistry in 1963, Ron went on to complete an internship and graduate studies in oral biology, a residency in fixed prosthodontics and a post doctoral fellowship in biomaterials research in the Army Dental Corps.

During his 21 years in the Army he held a number of important military and academic appointments and was awarded numerous military honors and medals. He also received the “A” Specialty Designator awarded by the Surgeon General, the highest professional award with in the Army Medical Department, and was also appointed Consultant to the Surgeon General in Fixed Prosthodontics.

For the past 23 years, Ron has been a full professor and director of graduate prosthodontics and implant dentistry at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. He was awarded an honorary Ph.D. degree from the University of Athens in Athens, Greece, for his worldwide leadership and contributions to the advancement of prosthodontics.

Ron is also a diplomat of the American Board of Prosthodontics, as well as fellow of the American College of Prosthodontics, American and International College of Dentists and International Team of Implantology. He is past president of the American College of Prosthodontists, American Board of Prosthodontics, and American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics.

Ron currently serves as a commissioner on the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation and chairs the ADA Prosthodontic Review Committee. Most recently, he was recognized as “Educator of the Year” by the American College of Prosthodontists for achievement in academic dentistry and contributions to health sciences.



Dr. Ronald M. Meffert
Dent '55

Ronald Meffert

Dr. Roland M. Meffert is considered to be one of the foremost experts on dental implants in the country.  His research interests have focused on grafting and dental implants.

Currently, Roland educates future dentists at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center—San Antonio as a clinical professor in the department of periodontics, with a cross appointment in the department of prosthodontics. In addition, he serves as a course director for the preceptorship in dental implantology.

Roland has been named Oral Implantologist of the Year by the American Society of Osseointegration, has received International Education Awards from the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and was honored at the Roland M. Meffert International Symposium in New Orleans. He has also received two Special Citation Awards and was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Both the Meffert Mutlu Implant Institute in Ankara, Turkey, and the Meffert International Symposium in Bodrum, Turkey, were named for Roland, an indication of his global reputation. He has served as honorary president at the Meffert International Symposium.

Roland retired from the United States Air Force in 1974 at the rank of colonel. He has authored numerous books and articles and has lectured worldwide with presentations in the U.S., Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Turkey and Egypt.

“Marquette contributed to my success by being thorough in its training, both didactic and clinical,” says Roland. “I felt qualified to accomplish dental treatment at any level.”



Dr. Robert R. Winter
Dent '81

Robert WinterDr. Robert Winter maintains a private prosthodontics practice in Newport Beach, Calif., and is a member of the graduate prosthodontics faculty at the University of Washington and the University of Southern California. After graduating from Marquette University School of Dentistry, he completed a prosthodontics specialty residency in Milwaukee in 1983.

He founded the Oral-facial Design Center, an educational facility in Newport Beach, where he teaches a series of clinical and technical educational courses. He is also co-owner of Esthetics by Design, a dental laboratory.

Having taught more than 450 didactic, clinical and technical courses in more than 35 countries, Bob is recognized around the world for his skills as both a clinician and ceramist. This unique blending of disciplines and talent keeps him in high demand as a speaker. He has published numerous articles and sits on the advisory boards for the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry and Dental Dialogue. He is actively involved in research and product development pertaining to new dental materials, including the development of d.SIGN ® dental ceramic, which is distributed worldwide.

In 1991, Bob was the second recipient of the Gordon Christensen Lecturer Recognition Award for Excellence in Restorative Education, and he was the first dentist inducted into the Canadian Dental Technology Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bob is a member of the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry, American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, American College of Prosthodontists, International College of Prosthodontics, International College of Dentists, Pierre Fauchard Academy, and the Northwest Network for Dental Excellence.

Honorary Distinguished Alumni in Dentistry


Dennis J. McGuire

Dennis McGuire

After serving as the executive director of the Wisconsin Dental Association for 21 years, Dennis McGuire will retire in May. He is not a dentist, but his leadership in dentistry has been key in building a strong relationship between the industry and Marquette’s School of Dentistry. Dennis has helped cultivate this relationship by working as a facilitator and collaborator with previous and current dental school leadership.

In the early 1990s, when the university was seriously considering the closure of the dental school, Dennis worked effectively to successfully convince the leadership of Marquette and the Wisconsin State Legislature that having a dental school in the state was critical for the ongoing oral health and well-being of its citizens.

Dennis played a significant role in helping the dental school with its lobbying efforts at the state and national levels. He has been inducted as an honorary member of the WDA, the American Dental Association, the International College of Dentists and Omicron Kappa Upsilon. He also received the WDA President’s Award of Honor, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives Hall of Fame Award for Excellence in Association Management, and is the only non-dentist to receive the WDA Outstanding Service Award.

Although he is retiring, Dennis will continue working with the WDA to develop programs that aid dentists transitioning into retirement. “One of my daughters said recently that her father loved to go to work and looked forward to it each morning,” Dennis says. “That certainly has been the case for the past 21 years working with and for the dental community. I’ve enjoyed witnessing and being part of the transition that the WDA has experienced, from day-to-day operation to strategic planning.”



Robert J. and Judith M. Sullivan

Robert and Judith SullivanThe late Robert Sullivan and Judith Sullivan played an instrumental role in the School of Dentistry for a number of years.

About Bob

Bob, a honorary member of the American Dental Association, was the founder of Sullivan Dental Products, now Sullivan-Schein Dental since the company merged in 1997 with Henry Schein.

Bob also served on the School of Dentistry’s Advisory Council as well as the School of Dentistry Building Committee ("Get It All Done" Committee) until his health prevented him from attending meetings.

About Judy

Judy took her husband’s place and played an active role on that committee. Bob Sullivan passed away in April 2001.

Beyond their gifts of time and talent, Bob and Judy have been very generous to the school financially. Through their family foundation, they made a generous contribution to the Centennial Fund and the lead private gift to the School of Dentistry Building Fund. This gift was a catalyst in making the new dental facility a reality. Bob and Judy led by example and that encouraged others to make significant gifts as well.

In their quiet, humble and unassuming way, the Sullivans have been a critical component contributing to the success of the School of Dentistry.

Outstanding Dental Service Award


Chris G. Halliday, D.D.S
Dent '87

Christopher HallidayChristopher Halliday, D.D.S., makes it a point to learn something from each person he meets. And considering

he works with the 2.5 million Native-Americans and

Alaska Native people living in the United States in his career in public health, he’s picked up some interesting knowledge along the way.

“Interactions with others offer me the ability to improve myself, and my success is directly attributable to the education that others have provided me,” says Christopher, chief dental officer of the Indian Health Service and chief dental liaison between the U.S. Public Health Service and U.S. Surgeon General.

“It has brought me closer to understanding the need for

us all to work together toward improving our lives in a collective manner,” he says.

And when Christopher says “for us all,” he means it. He works with dental programs that provide health care to inmates in federal correctional institutions; networks with programs serving the armed forces; and works with dentists in research and regulatory agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.

His service to the country grew when Christopher was deployed to New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to assist in recovery and identification efforts after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The list goes on. His professional associations are endless. The work is never done. In fact, Christopher tries to return to Marquette each year to interact with others so that he might inspire them to work with underserved populations.

“My career has been extremely rewarding and gratifying, and I’d like to help develop the next generation of oral health care providers,” he says. What a mentor he would be.



Steven J. Albright
Dent '78

Steven Albright

Steve has become an international traveler as a volunteer dentist for humanitarian teams, most frequently in Guatemala and Haiti. But he has traveled to and worked in India, Romania, Moldova, Bolivia, Thailand, Ecuador, Jamaica and Israel as well. Steve has shared his enthusiasm with many others, enlisting family, students, friends, office staff, fellow church members and even patients to go on teams with him and his wife Paula Cipolla (who, in addition to being on 15 teams, is Steve’s office manager). 

Steve attributes his success and happiness as a dentist to friendships developed at Marquette’s dental school. “Coming back to Marquette,” he adds, “always feels like ‘coming home.’” Family in Racine and the Wisconsin Badgers (he’s a ’74 grad of UW –Madison) also draw him back to Wisconsin.

In addition to private practice, Steve is a faculty member at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, where he feels “younger, smarter and better looking because I get to hang around dental students.” In addition to mentoring at the dental school there, he enjoys running marathons, singing in the church choir and gardening.

Steve is also active in the Christian Dental Society, Academy of General Dentistry, Pierre Fauchard Academy and as a Fellow in the International College of Dentists. Of the numerous honors he has received throughout his career, Steve is most proud of being recognized as Citizen of the Year by the Washington State Dental Association in 1999 and being selected by United Way as Community Hero Torchbearer for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.



Steven J. Debbink
Dent '88

Steven Debbink

Since graduation, Dr. Steven Debbink has dedicated his time and talent to working with underserved populations, including migrant farm workers and HIV and AIDS patients. He currently works with patients at the Milwaukee branch of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the only dental clinic in the state that exclusively treats HIV and AIDS patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Steve has dedicated his career to improving the oral health care of such patients. His compassion and understanding of the issues that face them make patients feel more comfortable and willing to visit the dental office.

Steve is also a dental consultant for the state of Wisconsin office of the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center. In this capacity, he helps develop educational topics related to oral health and HIV, and works on presentations to dental and health care personnel in Wisconsin.

In addition, Steve is committed to educating students in the dental field on HIV and AIDS. He initiated collaboration with local educational institutions, including Marquette, and has invited students to a rotation in the clinic.

His hope is to ease the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS patients and help students feel more comfortable working with this population.



Kathleen Schleif Roth
Dent '74

Kathleen Schleif RothDr. Kathy Roth earned her dental degree from Marquette University School of Dentistry in 1974. She has maintained a general practice in West Bend, Wis., since 1974 and was on the part-time faculty at the school from 1974 to 1975 and 1976 to 1977.

Kathy served as an officer in the Washington-Ozaukee Dental Society, including a term as president in 1990. She was a Wisconsin Dental Association trustee for three years and served as president in 1998.

At the national level, Kathy is currently the 9th district trustee to the American Dental Association. She has served on the ADA’s strategic planning, information technology and diversity committees. She serves on the Presidential Task force on International Accreditation and is currently running for office to be president-elect of the American Dental Association.

Kathy has taken a leadership role in the state, chairing the Workforce Study for Dentistry and the WDA-Milwaukee Brewers Fifth Grade Smokeless Tobacco Education Program. She is vice chairman of the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped — Wisconsin Donated Dental Services Program.

Kathy is also very involved with Marquette, serving on the School of Dentistry Dean’s Advisory Council, Dean’s Search Committee and Building Committee. Since 1996, she has also been involved with the mentorship program that pairs dental students with practicing dentists.

Friends of the School of Dentistry


The Hon. John G. Gard and Cate S. Zueske

John Gard and Cate Zueske

John Gard and Cate Zeuske, both as a couple and individually, have been unwavering in their support of the Marquette University School of Dentistry, recognizing that “so much in life is about communicating with people, understanding what needs to be done and assuming the responsibility for doing it.”

As public servants, they have done just that. “We have been in places of responsibility and tried to embrace those moments to do the things we deeply believe in,” say John and Cate. “One of those things is the Marquette School of Dentistry.”

Both John and Cate have served the State of Wisconsin as well as Marquette. Cate’s political involvement began in 1982 when she was first elected to the State Assembly. She served until 1990, after which she was state treasurer four years. Cate also served as Secretary of the Department of Revenue for Governor Tommy G. Thompson. John has been Wisconsin State Representative for the 89th Assembly District since 1987 and was elected as Speaker of the State Assembly in 2003.

At a critical juncture, Cate played a significant role for the dental school. While state treasurer in the early 1990s, she chaired the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, on which she strongly supported actions that ensured the future of the school.

John’s role on the Joint Committee of Finance helped secure the votes needed to provide $15 million for the creation of the new School of Dentistry. His work in the legislature was also decisive in increasing eligibility and restoring partial funding for the Dental Capitation Contract. In December 2006, the state directed $1 million for relocating clinics in Milwaukee, again with John’s strong support. 

As demonstrated throughout their careers in state government, John and Cate “firmly believe nothing gets done alone, and talented groups of dedicated people sharing a common vision can accomplish special things.”  Although neither attended Marquette, their daughter Elisabeth is currently a freshman at the university, and is thoroughly enjoying the journey.

All University Award


Neil E. Peterson, D.D.S.
Dent '67
Pediatric Dentist

Neil PetersonAs a young Iowa boy with few career plans of his own, Neil Peterson listened to the advice of his sister. A Marquette student herself, she encouraged him to come to Marquette and study dentistry.

Good advice. In addition to earning his dental degree, Neil met his wife, Bev, at Marquette, in the library of all places.

Soon after graduation, Neil was a U.S. Air Force captain stationed in rural Oklahoma. Once again, good fortune came his way when the colonel at his dental clinic designated Neil the preventive dental officer for children.

Now with definite plans to specialize in pediatric dentistry, Neil returned to Marquette School of Dentistry and Milwaukee Children’s Hospital.

Looking back, it was the perfect career choice for a man who has spent nearly 40 years working with pediatric patients, the majority of them underserved and poor.

“I do love my work,” says Neil. “Believe it or not, it keeps me young. I get more hugs and high fives from my patients every day than most people would get in a month or even a year.”

Neil’s enthusiasm for his profession, his co-workers, his patients and their families is evident. So is his love of Marquette.

Neil actively supports the Marquette School of Dentistry, mentors countless students, served on the development committee for the building of the new dental school, acted as president of the School of Dentistry Alumni Association, then served on the National Alumni Association board of directors. He was recognized as the 2003 School of Dentistry’s Alumnus of the Year.

Then there’s his love of Marquette’s athletics. Even his practice at 50th and North in Milwaukee sports a blue and gold motif with countless Marquette photos, posters and pennants. He and Bev are preferred basketball season ticket holders, and Neil has served on the selection committee for the M-Club Hall of Fame induction. Both have attended numerous events.

Neil’s life is rewarding and full. Any signs of slowing down? Not yet. “It’s harder to retire than it is to get started,” he says.