Old School: A Gold Foil Legend

Professor Harry A. True, a Northwestern University Dental School alumnus, dedicated his P&S career to teaching operative dentistry at its highest level of expertise. In 1928, his initial title was professor of gold foil technology, and he went on to serve as chair of the Department of Operative Dentistry for 33 years.

In 1929, Dean Arthur McDowell appointed True and six other faculty members to the school’s first Faculty Council. He developed his “True separator” for facilitating operations on anterior teeth and co-authored a textbook on operative dentistry. Due to the complexities in placing gold foil fillings, True solicited the support of student dental assistants from College of San Mateo to work with dental students in a special Operative Clinic, and he expanded this program in subsequent years.

After maintaining legendary status throughout his years at P&S, True retired on his 80th birthday. During his tenure, students were expected to memorize a list of maxims known as “Truisms,” and to repeat one when called upon in class. Some of his most memorable sayings included: “It is not good enough until it is the best I can do;” “Failure begins only when one gives up trying to succeed;” and “The difficult things of today become commonplace tomorrow.”