morton armstrong

Morton Amsterdam, professor emeritus of periodontics and periodontal prosthesis in Penn Dental Medicine’s department of periodontics and an internationally renowned dental educator and clinician, died June 27. He was 92.

“Few individuals have so profoundly influenced the science and practice of dental medicine,” said Denis Kinane, Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean. “Dr. Amsterdam was an exceptional innovator, clinician and educator, who helped to establish a legacy of leadership for Penn periodontics and periodontal prosthesis and directly mentored many of today’s leaders in the field. He will be fondly remembered as an example of excellence in clinical dentistry.”

A 1945 graduate of Penn Dental Medicine and a 1943 alumnus of Penn’s College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Amsterdam first joined the Penn faculty in 1953, advancing through the ranks to professor of periodontics and periodontal prosthesis and serving in that position from 1967 through his retirement in 1992. Dr. Amsterdam served as chairman of the department of prosthetic dentistry within the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine from 1963 to 1967 and was director of Penn Dental Medicine’s Graduate Periodontics and Periodontal Prosthesis from 1969 through 1973. Throughout his career, he also held academic appointments at Temple University, Boston University, Harvard University and The Medical College of Pennsylvania.

“Dr. Amsterdam’s energies as a clinician, teacher and leader have left an eternal mark on the profession,” wrote D. Walter Cohen, professor emeritus of periodontics and a colleague of Dr. Amsterdam’s during his tenure at Penn Dental Medicine, in a 1977 tribute issue of The Alpha Omegan, the publication of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity, which honored Dr. Amsterdam with its Achievement Medal that same year.

Penn Dental Medicine paid tribute to Dr. Amsterdam’s innumerable contributions to the School and periodontics with the naming of the D. Walter Cohen and Morton Amsterdam Periodontal Clinic in their honor, dedicated in 2008 (Almanac February 12, 2008). And in 2004, the deanship of Penn Dental Medicine was designated the Morton Amsterdam Deanship, endowed through a gift given by the late Hon. Walter H. Annenberg in honor of Dr. Amsterdam, a long-time friend of the Annenbergs. In addition, an endowed chair in periodontal prosthesis was established in Dr. Amsterdam’s honor at the Hebrew University School of Dental Medicine, Jerusalem, in 1973, where he also received the University’s Torch of Learning Award in 1973. 

Among his many other awards, Dr. Amsterdam received an honorary doctor of science from Dickinson College in 1974; the Thomas Evans Achievement Award from the Penn Dental Medicine Alumni Society in 1980; the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 (Almanac April 21, 1981); the Jerome and Dorothy Schweitzer Research Award from The Greater New York Academy of Prosthodontics in 1984; an honorary doctor of odontology from Goteborg University, Sweden, in 1988; and the Penn Alumni Award of Merit in 1997. He was also part of the International College of Dentists Major Contributions to Dentistry in the 20th Century Video Series for the Museum of Dental History in 1997 and was named Laureate for The William Thomas Green Morton National Award for the Advancement of General Dentistry in 2000 by the Maryland Academy of General Dentistry. In 2003, Dr. Amsterdam received the Master Clinician Award from the American Academy of Periodontology. And in 2013, he was honored as a luminary by Penn Dental Medicine’s department of periodontics.

Dr. Amsterdam established a successful private practice in Center City Philadelphia in 1947 and continued to maintain that as well throughout his academic career.

He is survived by his children, John, James, Joan and Jane; and ten grandchildren.

A scholarship fund named in his honor is being established at Penn Dental Medicine; contributions can be made to: The Morton Amsterdam Scholarship Fund, Penn Dental Medicine, Office of Development & Alumni Relations, 240 S. 40th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6030.

A special tribute celebrating the life and work of Dr. Amsterdam will be held Monday, August 18, 6 p.m., as part of Penn Dental Medicine’s annual White Coat Ceremony at Penn’s Annenberg Center. Seating is limited; please RSVP to Lindsay Honzak, lhonzak@dental.upenn.edu, in the Office of Development & Alumni Relations by August 11.