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18 August 2022

Tribute to Professor Dianne Rekow

Emeritus Professor Dianne Rekow, Executive Dean of Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences from 2012-2016, passed away in August 2022.

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Elizabeth Dianne Rekow was Executive Dean at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences from 2012 to 2016. The first woman to hold that position (and the first international appointment), she steered the faculty through a period of strategic change with a reorganisation to facilitate deeper engagement between research scientists and clinical academics working in dental, oral and craniofacial sciences.  She passed away in August 2022.

Dianne was a caring, supportive and insightful leader and colleague who contributed greatly to the development of the faculty and its staff. She is remembered with fondness by many and will be greatly missed.

Professor Michael Escudier, FoDOCS  Executive Dean

Throughout her time as Executive Dean, the faculty pursued a range of entrepreneurial and innovative activities, including the creation of an Advance Technology Centre where over £1 million worth of dental equipment has been donated, bringing the latest digital dental systems to the Faculty’s clinics for students to use.

Dianne was passionate about diversity and inclusion, and a powerful advocate for balanced gender representation. Her drive to support the faculty in this area saw many women move into leadership positions during her tenure, and included a successful Athena Swan Silver application in 2015.

Dianne was a remarkable woman - courageous, inspirational and fun. She was a passionate advocate for science and dentistry, encouraging us to be creative, to take risks and actively shape the future, ‘leveraging change’. It was a great privilege to know her and work with her.

Professor Jennifer Gallagher MBE, Newland-Pedley Professor of Oral Health Strategy

She was made a Fellow of King's in 2013, and held the title of Emeritus Professor after her retirement from the role of Executive Dean.

Professor Rekow was an international authority on aesthetic and restorative dentistry as well as one of the early pioneers of - and leader in - the development of digital dentistry. She was joined at King's by husband Van Thompson, Professor of Biomaterials, Biomimetics and Biophotonics. Together they were a formidable team of research scientists in dentistry, inspired to mentor successive generations of scientists in the field.

Dianne was a remarkable person and a great role model for women in science. Her energy and passion were contagious, and she worked relentlessly to lead the faculty through times of change and to protect its values in a challenging external environment. She easily connected to people and, spotting their unique talent, encouraged them to tackle new challenges. As an advocate for women in science, she inspired and actively supported many to take on leadership roles in the faculty and beyond. It was a privilege to work closely with Dianne during her time at King’s.

Professor Andrea Streit, Dean for Research (2013-2018), Head of the Centre for Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology

Dianne initially earned a BSc in Physics and Mathematics and an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from St. Thomas College, St. Paul, Minnesota. 

After 11 years in various technical positions in industry, she returned to academia, earning graduate degrees in dentistry along with mechanical and biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota. From 2002 to 2012, Dianne was a Professor of Orthodontics at New York University (NYU), during which time she also held the role of Senior Vice Provost of Engineering Technology at NYU, and Provost of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU.

In 2012, she was appointed Executive Dean at the Dental Institute at King’s (now the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Science), serving until 2016.

I was privileged to work with Dianne on the Boards of the IADR for many years before she came to King's. She had a lovely sense of humour to go with outstanding academic and leadership credentials. This was a very powerful mixture and allowed her, I think, to persuade others to her (usually correct) point of view in a gentle but firm manner on many occasions. She exercised her love of research in the very best way, by stimulating others and creating a structure within which people could enjoy science.

Professor Stephen Challacombe, Martin Rushton Professor of Oral Medicine
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In 2012, Dianne was elected to the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK. She was a part of the Senior Dental Leadership team, helping to shape the programme over several years, continuing to contribute as recently as July 2022.

She served as president of both the International Association for Dental Research and the American Association of Dental Research. Dianne was a Fellow of AADR, IADR, the Greater New York Academy of Prosthodontists (and Schweitzer Research Awardee of that organization) and the Academy of Dental Materials. She was also a Senior Scholar of the Sante Fe Group, a leading think-tank dedicated to improving life through oral health. Upon retirement, Dianne's leadership skills were sought on many boards, including industry.

Dianne was a hugely accomplished and internationally renowned academic and made a very significant impact on academic dentistry in the UK during her time as Executive Dean at King’s. She was also a warm and generous person with a sense of fun and vitality who was a complete pleasure to work with. I well remember her kind advice and wisdom following her retirement when I first joined King’s as her successor – advice which epitomised her pride in the faculty and her genuine affection for all who worked there. She will be remembered fondly by all.

Professor Mike Curtis, Interim Senior Vice President Academic and previous FoDOCS Executive Dean (2017-2021)

The thoughts and sympathies of our entire community are with her husband Van, her children and family, and her many friends, colleagues and collaborators.