During WWI, U.S. soldiers understood that it was best not to suffer from any sort of dental emergency on the frontline—because the odds of finding someone like Dr. Arthur E. Corby were practically zero. Born in the very last years of the 19th century, Corby was one of the early dental pioneers who helped usher in the age of modern dentistry. Following college, Corby enlisted in the newly minted Army Dental Corps, which was responsible for bringing dental care to countless U.S. soldiers fighting in WWI. Following his service, Colby returned stateside to create a large and thriving New York City-based dental practice. Extremely active in organized dentistry, Corby served in numerous leadership roles, including President of the New York Academy of Dentistry. He was also a member of several professional groups such as the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry, and the American College of Dentists, among others. In 1952, Corby organized a public event with scholars and professionals to debate the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Remarkably, this symposium proved to be the genesis of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee.
In 1913, Corby enrolled at Penn Dental Medicine, an academic program that had only been around for about three decades. During Corby's time at Penn, University leaders opened the Evans Building (officially called the Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute), which was the best-equipped dental building in the nation at the time. On top of his dental studies, Corby showed a tremendous enthusiasm for extracurricular activities. Corby was editor in chief of the Senior Class Record and the secretary of the Matthew H. Cryer Society of Oral Surgery. According to yearbook entries, he was also an active member in a number of fraternities and organizations, including Delta Sigma Delta, the Darby Dental Society, and the Penn Dental Journal Advisory Board. In 1917, Corby earned his dental degree from the University.
One hundred and four years later, the Corby name was bouncing around campus again. Members of the Corby family announced that they were honoring the transformative impact of Penn on Corby with a generous $20 million donation. “One cannot overstate the tremendous impact of this historic gift,” said Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean, Dr. Mark S. Wolff.
Colby retained strong ties to Penn throughout his lifetime. Among his alumni achievements, the tireless dentist served for 10 years as an alumni trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. He was also among the small and prestigious ranks of graduates awarded Penn’s Alumni Award of Merit for service to the University and its alumni. Furthermore, a recently renovated auditorium within the School’s Levy building will be named for Dr. Corby, ensuring that a prominent space within Penn Dental Medicine will bear his name as a lasting tribute.