By Ron Page
Today was the deadline for my Rotary News Article and you were saved from reading another of my stories about farm life in northern Illinois that relate to Rotary only in that our past experiences make us into the Rotarians we are today. That article was scrapped after opening the Sunday Oklahoman and reading of the passing of our past Rotary 29 President, Dr. Dean Robertson, at the age of 101.
In my 30 years in Rotary, I have come to know many fine men and women, but none impressed me more than Dean Robertson. I was membership chair in 2006 when former club president, Gean Atkinson, came to be about another former club president, Dr. Dean Robertson, who dropped out of our club many years ago due to attendance requirements in place at the time. I was astounded to learn that a 1967-68 Rotary 29 President, 50 years later, was still the most highly respected pediatric dentist in the city. Dean practiced and taught for 63 years. Welcoming Dean back into our club was quite an honor.
Since 2006, each time I meet an Oklahoma City dentist for the first time, I ask if they know Dean Robertson and, almost always, they do. Some of the responses are “Of course”, “He taught me in dental school”, “He’s the top children’s dentist”, and “I refer all my screamers to him”. If you have had a conversation with Dean you will understand why children would trust him. How could anyone young, or old, not feel comfortable in his presence? His strong, athletic build from a lifetime of competitive swimming was far from intimidating, rather, I suspect, a child might think of him as a benevolent “good king” who used his power to protect, not to harm.
Without a doubt, his life deserves several books, maybe one about his personal life, one about his role as a leader, one about his contribution to the dental profession, and I can think of more. The obituary in the February 10 Sunday Oklahoman provides what is, no doubt, a tiny glimpse of his lifetime of service and achievements.
If you are an 80-year-old, Dean was a championship swimmer at the University of Texas before you were born, you were 2 years old when Dean graduated from Dental School, you were a kindergartner when Dean was a Major in the Army Air Corps, and you were 9 when he began his dental practice. When you were 29, Dean joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry. When you were 59, Dean returned to private practice. When you retired at age 65, Dean practiced for another 7 years.
Dr. Robertson’s obituary lists three generations of offspring, and I suspect his awards will be displayed on the walls of great-grandchildren scattered around the world.
Those of you who tend to sit with “regular” table companions at our Rotary Luncheons might want to consider making an effort to mix it up a bit and make sure you don’t miss getting to know some truly outstanding people like Dr. Dean Robertson. May he rest in peace.