In Memorium: Dr. Thomas Murnane

Dr. Thomas Murnane, quadruple Jumbo, former TUSDM Dean and Tufts Senior Vice President, passed away on March 20, 2014 in Marblehead, Mass. after a lengthy illness. Dr. Murnane was known as a Tufts institution: he earned a bachelor’s degree, a D.M.D., a postgraduate certificate in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and a Ph.D. from Tufts; taught at both TUSDM and the medical school; and served as acting dean of the dental school from 1971 – 1972 before being appointed Vice President of Development and later Senior Vice President of the university. He retired from Tufts at the end of 2002 after a 40-year career.


Dr. Thomas Murnane

Several current and former TUSDM faculty and staff expressed their condolences for Dr. Murnane’s death and remember his significant impact on the Tufts community, including the following:

I came to Tufts University School of Dental Medicine as a resident in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 1977. Even then, I was aware that Dr. Thomas Murnane was a star.  As a graduate of Tufts D.M.D. program and of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery post-graduate program, having served as Interim Dean of the dental school, and appointed to the position of Vice President at the university, Dr. Murnane was an inspirational role model in dentistry for the unlimited possibilities of a successful academic career.  I was impressed with his achievements and his work ethic.  In 1995, I became Dean of the dental school and had the opportunity to know and work with Dr. Murnane on a more personal basis.  He was expansive in his ideas about Tufts, always positive, engaging, charming, and very personable.  He became one of my mentors and encouraged me to broaden the scope of my activities within the university and with the alumni on the national and international level. He had the gift of cultivating relationships and fundraising to support the growth of Tufts. Dr. Murnane was always inclusive of the dental school in university-wide planning.  His loyalty and contributions were significant in making Tuffts a great university.  – Dr. Lonnie Norris, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Emeritus

I was so blessed that Tom Murnane was my advisor when I was accepted by TUSDM in 1969, for I had no clue what I was going to be when I finally grew up.   He immediately contacted us and arranged for a dinner and drinks at his home. He embraced our small group and invited us into his home over the years with his wife, Janice, in no holds-barred discussions of the future of dentistry and what roles might be available outside of the traditional tracks. He led, or rather, mentored, me into my unique career path. For the next four years, he counseled, cajoled, and guilted me into this magnificent odyssey.

His Ph.D. was in anatomy from TUSM and for years, in addition to his advanced roles in this university, continued to be an integral part of our weeklong review board course for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons expertly lecturing and developing hands-on exercises for the clinical applications of surgical anatomy.  He had a passion and a compelling way of expressing complex information simply.  Whenever I present at an OMFS meeting, someone still always comes up to tell me that without Dr. Murnane he or she would have never passed their Boards. He even extracted my four impacted third molars.  As Mark Gonthier pointed out [in his announcement], he assumed the Deanship of TUSDM during very trying times and laid the foundation by assuring that the next generation of our deans have the vision, gestalt, and integrity to bring TUSDM into its rightful place as the best dental school in the United States.  Deans Robert Shira, Erling Johansen, Lonnie Norris and Huw Thomas are part of his vision and legacy. I would hope that when you view his portrait on the 15th floor you will notice the glint in his eyes, for that says it all.  No matter his role in the university, his heart and soul was not only Jumbo, but Tufts Dental. May he rest in peace – a job well done. – Dr. Morton Rosenberg, Professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

I’ve known Tom since he was a dental student and an oral surgery student, and then when he worked for me for several years in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Tom was a very, very unique individual. First of all, he was a fantastic, brilliant, eloquent teacher. He could make the most complicated subject easily understood. He had charm and humor; he was charismatic and fast on his feet. He would get in your heart; he never found it difficult to talk to people, to deal with them. He never said anything bad about anyone.

He also made Tufts and Tufts Dental School what it is today. He was the architect of rebuilding the dental school in 1973, and as vice president he had a tremendous capacity for fundraising and helped Tufts break into the international scene. He was not a dreamer, he was a doer, and his ability to communicate with people just made things happen. The dental school is, and always was, one of the brightest elements of the university – Tom made the school shine even brighter. – Dr. H. Chris Doku, Distinguished University Professor and Chair, Emeritus, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Coverage of Dr. Murnane’s life in Tufts Now | Read his obituary in the Salem News.