Marilyn Woolfolk (1949- )
MS Microbiology 1972, DDS 1978, MPH 1982 University of Michigan
Public Health and Administration
Balancing School and Family
Marilyn Woolfolk entered college and dental school when women, empowered by the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, began actively seeking careers on an equal footing with men. Faculty mentors convinced her to try dentistry, a family-friendly field that would allow her to be her own boss. Woolfolk was the first female student to have a child while in Michigan’s dental program. With a supportive husband and a neighbor providing child care, Woolfolk graduated with her class.
In the 1980s, Woolfolk was an Instructor in Community Dentistry, and worked with the Head Start program in the Ann Arbor Public School. At the time, Woolfolk was also getting her Masters in Public Health Dentistry and welcoming a second child.
An Administrative Role
In the 1990s, in addition to her teaching responsibilities, Woolfolk became Director of Student Affairs, providing career, personal and academic counseling and overseeing the financial aid and scholarship resources. Named Assistant Dean for Student Services in 1997, she added admissions to her responsibilities. In 2002, she was the first African American woman to become a full professor at the U-M dental school. Here she speaks with a dental school donor.
Woolfolk has found mentoring women students one of her major satisfactions. As Assistant Dean, she tries to help all students “look at the long picture.” With about 400 students to keep track of, that is a tall order.
Award for Contributions to Dental Education
In March 2012, Woolfolk received the American Dental Education Association’s Presidential Citation for “increasing access to health professions education, coordinating and evaluating community-based education, and increasing the diversity of the health care work force.”
Women changed the face of dentistry for the better in terms of making patients more relaxed and less fearful.Marilyn Woolfolk, 2012. Graduation photo, Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry collection, SMD 292.1978.