AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Dr. Connie L. Drisko, former Dean of the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Regents University, died Sunday at Georgia Regents Medical Center after a short battle with acute myelogenous leukemia.
Drisko became the college's third dean in 2003. During her tenure, she oversaw construction of a new clinical facility, one of the largest of its kind in the country, which opened in 2011.
Under Drisko's leadership, the college twice received full accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association and has been nationally recognized for student diversity programs that prepare under-represented minority and low-income students for dental practice.
In 2012, Drisko was awarded GRU's inaugural employee Diversity Award for promoting and enhancing diversity among students, faculty, and students since she became dean.
Her successor, Dr. Carol Lefebvre, served as associate and vice dean under Drisko for seven years.
"Connie's passion for the College of Dental Medicine and dentistry in the state of Georgia was evident to everyone she met," Lefebvre said. "She poured her heart and life into getting us into this new building, and it stands as a monument to her tireless efforts. The CDM has lost a dear friend."
GRU President Ricardo Azziz said the GRU community will long remember the impact Drisko had on the university and on the dental profession.
"Connie was an energetic and tenacious leader, a force to be reckoned with in every sense of the phrase," Azziz said. "Her colleagues nicknamed her the White Tornado, a reference to her white hair and Oklahoma roots, but really a tribute to her amazing ability to get things done."
After 10 years serving as Dean of the College of Dental Medicine, Drisko left her leadership position on June 30, 2013. She moved to a new role in the Office of Advancement, continuing to raise support for the dental school, the construction of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons building, and other university endeavors, and co-directing the Executive Leadership Academy.
"Dr. Drisko led the College of Dental Medicine through a remarkable period of growth," said GRU Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Gretchen Caughman. "She was a remarkable leader, and an unwavering advocate for dentistry and dental education. Connie's extraordinary spirit will be greatly missed."
A private family service and burial will be held this week. A memorial service for friends and extended family is being planned for September. Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors on Davis Road in Augusta, Ga., is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Connie Drisko's memory to the Georgia Health Sciences Foundation, 1120 15th Street, FI-1000, Augusta, GA 30912. Funds will be used to support the College of Dental Medicine's pediatric dentistry outreach programs and other efforts related to the oral health needs of children.