LaForrest Garner


Honorary Degree (2007)
Doctor of Science
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Michael McRobbie
IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (1999)


Dr. LaForrest D. Garner is widely esteemed by his peers in dentistry and dental education for outstanding professional achievement coupled with the highest personal integrity and commitment to the public good. He is also praised for his "many exemplary and pioneering activities" and his deep commitment to "helping his students, colleagues, and community strive for the best that is within them."

A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Dr. Garner came to Indiana to attend Indiana University. After completing his preprofessional studies at IU, he received the D.D.S. degree in 1957, the M.S.D. degree in pedodontics in 1959, and the Certificate in Orthodontics in 1961, all from the IU School of Dentistry. In 1961 he joined the faculty of the School of Dentistry as an assistant professor of orthodontics and advanced rapidly through the academic ranks. In 1970 he was appointed professor and chair of the Department of Orthodontics, a position he held for 17 years. In this capacity, Dr. Garner made many important contributions to pediatric dental and orthodontic education, as he directed the training of many orthodontic specialists; published numerous papers, abstracts, and a book chapter; and made presentations throughout Indiana, the United States, and around the world.

Dr. Garner served as orthodontic coordinator on the Riley Hospital Craniofacial Anomalies Team at a crucial time in its development, when the team achieved national prominence. He generated a high level of scholarly activity regarding the rehabilitation treatment of patients with cleft lip and palate, and he served on the Board of Directors of the American Cleft Palate Association and the American Cleft Palate Educational Foundation.

In 1987 he became the first associate dean for minority student services in the School of Dentistry. In this capacity, he provided extensive guidance and support for underrepresented minority dental, graduate, and allied dental students and potential students. When he retired from the faculty of the School of Dentistry, he took on the role of IUPUI ombudsman for University College in the Office of Campus Interrelations.

In addition, Dr. Garner has been a true pioneer in Indiana dentistry. While making many contributions to the profession, he greatly enhanced the access of underrepresented minorities to professional education and achievement. He was the first African American in the state to hold dual specialty status in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics; the first African American chair of a major academic department in the IU School of Dentistry; and the first African American president of the Indiana Society of Orthodontics.

He served in numerous diversity initiatives at the university level and played important leaderships roles in the public health and public service arenas. Dr. Garner is a member of numerous professional organizations and has received many honors. These include memberships in the American Board of Orthodontics and the Edward H. Angle Society, fellowship in the American College of Dentists, and presidency of both the Indiana Chapter and the Supreme Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honor Dental Society.

His long list of community involvement includes his work with the NAACP, the Fall Creek YMCA (Board of Governors), the Indianapolis Boys' Club (Board of Directors), the Visiting Nurses Association (Board of Directors), Indiana Health Careers (Board of Directors), the Little Red Door, Park Tudor School (Board of Directors), and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church (Ruling Elder).

According to Dean Lawrence I. Goldblatt of the IU School of Dentistry, Dr. Garner's life and work have had a far-reaching impact on the promotion of the lives and careers of many young professionals. "Through this and his deep commitment to diversity and access to both education and health care and concern for the public good," says Dr. Goldblatt, "he has established himself as a personal and professional role model par excellence."