Remembering Dr. John Driscoll

Dr. John Driscoll could be a daunting presence in the classroom and in the clinic.

“We called him ‘The Bear,’” said Dr. Kathryn Ragalis, Associate Professor in the Department of Diagnosis and Health Promotion, “When I first met him I was afraid of him.”

 Dr. John Driscoll with wife Sandra Driscoll

Dr. Driscoll, who passed away on January 4 at the age of 82, taught at TUSDM for 30 years in the Department of General Dentistry and Division of Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, from his appointment in 1969 as Clinical Instructor to his retirement in 1999 as Associate Clinical Professor. Over the years, his students were inspired (and sometimes intimidated) by his methodical and thorough nature, and his absolute commitment to ethics. Dr. Ragalis first met Dr. Driscoll as a dental student in 1990, and was struck by the way he could bring out the best in his students.

“He treated everyone the same, and he expected a lot of those who worked with him,” she said. “You wanted to impress him as a student and do more to improve.”

In addition to teaching, Dr. Driscoll loved the sea. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he achieved the rank of Commander. He spent his retirement boating and lobstering, either near his home in Kingston, Mass., or during vacations in Florida. His guiding motivation was his love and responsibility for the people in his life, including his wife and best friend Sandra Driscoll, a former Departmental Assistant in the Department of Periodontology at TUSDM, his four children, eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and special friends.

He felt a great responsibility to those to whom he had made a commitment,” said Dr. Michael Strassberg, D82, DG87, who gave a eulogy at Dr. Driscoll’s funeral. “He gave his best in fulfilling his obligations to others, not only because he could not do otherwise due to his ethical nature, but also because he cared so much for others.”

Dr. Ragalis graduated from TUSDM in 1992, and became a faculty member in the Division of Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in 1994. Her former teacher Dr. Driscoll took her under his wing. He mentored her as a fellow faculty member until his retirement from Tufts in 1999, and they remained close friends until his death. Dr. Ragalis said Dr. Driscoll had a significant impact on her career.

“I don’t think I would be teaching if it wasn’t for his influence when I started out,” she said. “He loved teaching in his own quiet way.”

Dr. Driscoll was laid to rest on January 9 at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass. The family requested that In lieu of flowers, donations be made to: the American Heart Association. Dr. Ragalis said her lasting impression of Dr. Driscoll will always be the man who expected much- and gave much in return.

“The Dr. Driscoll I knew always had a big smile for you, and was always welcoming,” she said. “He was ‘The Bear,’ but he was really more of a teddy bear than a grizzly bear.”