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June 5, 2016 at 11:06 am

Alum Is First African-American Valedictorian at Maryland Dentistry School

At Ohio, Tera Poole studied chemistry, psychology and biology.

At Ohio, Tera Poole studied chemistry, psychology and biology.

Ohio University alum Tera Poole ’11 gave the valedictorian address May 20 to her fellow graduates of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

“Prior to the ceremony, a school administrator had told Poole – a 2008 Walnut Hills High School graduate from Amberley Village – that she was the historic dental school’s first African-American valedictorian,” reports the Cincinnati Enquirer in “Historical first for dental school graduate from Amberley Village.”

Tera Poole graduated in 2011 from Ohio University with a specialized bachelor’s of science degree combining psychology, chemistry and biology.

She surprised herself by completing her undergraduate degree in three years and spent the following year working on campus. She entered dental school in the fall of 2012. She was elected class president as a freshman and re-elected three times….

Poole in July will begin a three-year residency at the University of California at San Francisco, where she plans to pursue a specialty in orthodontia.

Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte did a Q&A with Poole, including a question about her newfound celebrity as the subject of numerous news stories.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned that you were the first African-American valedictorian of the world’s oldest dental school?

A: “It’s not a celebration because here we are in 2016 and we are still having firsts for African-Americans. I had hoped we would have had one before me. African-Americans weren’t in the school until 1968 and didn’t graduate until 1972, but I thought there would have been one before me. I want to now flip it around and help make sure that other minority students can do this.”

In an interview at, D.L. Chandler wrote about Poole’s accomplishment at the world’s oldest school of dentistry:

Poole, who delivered the school’s commencement speech, knew that she was among the top students of her class but did not know she’d be named its top achiever. After processing the significance of the moment, Poole realized the weight of the moment during an interview with MIC.

The newly-minted doctor of dentistry acknowledged that the former Baltimore College of Dental Surgery wouldn’t even have admitted her when it was established in 1840. Poole was one of nine other Black women at the school and added that the group banded together to support the goals of one another.

Identities.Mic writer Phillip Lewis wrote that “it wasn’t until two days after graduation that Poole found out she had made history.”

“The tears just keep coming! Officially the FIRST black valedictorian of the world’s FIRST dental school,” she wrote in a post that has been shared on Instagram, where it received over 50,000 likes. It has since been shared on Facebook and other social media sites. “University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry was chartered in 1840, 25 years before slavery was abolished in the U.S., and 176 years later I have been able to make black history by graduating Summa Cum Laude at a place, when it was founded, I would not have even been able to attend.”

Andrea Morgan, a recruitment coordinator at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry, was pleased to deliver the good news to Poole, but recalled the sobering history of the dental school.

“The sad part is that the first African-American person didn’t graduate from our dental school until 1972,” Morgan said in a phone interview. “It took from 1840 to 1968 for a black person to come and graduate. That’s my lifetime.”

Out of a class of nearly 130 graduating students, Poole said she and nine other black female students helped each other through dental school. “Sticking together, we knew that we were in this together, that if there were any hardships, we were always there for each other,” she said. “When it came to studying for classes, we’d study together in the library. If it came to things outside of school that we were having hardships with, we always made sure we were there and speaking with each other.”


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