W. Donald Gay appointed to Hawes professorship

W. Donald Gay, D.D.S., has been named the Christy J. and Richard S. Hawes III Professor at the School of Medicine.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, made the announcement.

Donald Gay

Before their deaths, the Haweses established the professorship in honor of, and in gratitude to, Gay, who directs the Division of Maxillofacial Prosthetics in the Department of Otolaryngology. Christy Hawes was one of Gay’s patients.

“Christy and Dick Hawes were ardent supporters of the University,” Wrighton said. “We are grateful for their support and proud that their name is now linked to the Department of Otolaryngology and to work that lessens the sometimes devastating social impact of diseases and injury of the head and neck.”

The Haweses came from a long line of well-known St. Louis families. Christy was a direct descendant of explorer William Clark and granddaughter of one of the founders of International Shoe Co. Richard’s father was an investment banker and financial adviser, and his mother was granddaughter of the founder of Lemp Brewing Co.

Richard was a plastics manufacturer and civic leader. Over a 40-year span, he turned KSH, a small plastics-manufacturing firm, into a multimillion-dollar international enterprise. Longtime supporters of the University, the Haweses were Life Benefactors of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. Richard died in 2005, and Christy died in 2006.

Gay directs the maxillofacial prosthetics laboratory at the School of Medicine, which works to rebuild faces and jaws that have been affected by trauma, birth defects or disease. He and technician Ann Vitale create the full range of maxillofacial, or facial, and oral prostheses. This includes artificial eyes, ears and noses as well as dental devices.

Gay and Vitale work with patients of all ages. “We take kids who don’t feel normal, and we help them become normal,” said Gay. “And we help adults who can’t be normal adults — they can’t work or socialize — and we make it possible for them to resume those activities.”

Gay earned a D.D.S. degree from the University of Tennessee in 1966. After five years as a general dentist in the U.S. Army, Gay elected to specialize in prosthodontics, which includes crowns, bridges, dentures and partial dentures, and maxillofacial prosthetics. He completed a residency in prosthodontics at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1975 and a residency in maxillofacial prosthetics at the National Naval Medical Center in 1977.

After completing a tour of duty as chief of the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Service at Walter Reed, Gay joined the University’s School of Dental Medicine as chairman of the Department of Maxillofacial Prosthetics in 1979.

He has 25 years of active and reserve duty with the U.S. Army Dental Corps. He commanded the 5506th Dental Detachment of the U.S. Army Reserve, based in St. Louis, retiring with the rank of colonel.

He received the Meritorious Service Medal for Heroism and the “A” Proficiency Designator for Professional Excellence from the U.S. Army.

Gay transferred to the Department of Otolaryngology in 1991 when the School of Dental Medicine closed. In addition to his work in the prosthetics lab, he is on staff at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. He is a member of numerous professional societies and organizations.