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Former President of Tufts University,

Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Award



John A. DiBiaggio ’58 believes that "Higher education is the best vehicle for the success of individuals in our society." His career reflects this belief. A native of Detroit, he was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He received a dental degree from University of Detroit in 1958 and established a dental practice in New Baltimore, Michigan. During that time, he was a clinical instructor at University of Detroit’s School of Dentistry.

While his dental practice did well, he chose to leave dentistry to pursue a desire to become a dean in higher education. To reach that goal, he worked in administration at the University and pursued a degree from University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE), which prepares administrators for university leadership. At University of Detroit, he also served as an assistant to the dean of the School of Dentistry and chairperson of Social Dentistry.

Early positions in his career included serving as vice president for health affairs and as executive director of the Medical Center at the University of Connecticut, and as dean of the Dental School at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He led three of the nation’s top universities as president: University of Connecticut from 1979 to 1985; Michigan State University from 1985 to 1992; and Tufts University from 1992 until 2001 when he retired. His career as an academic leader spanned 35 years.

Among his accomplishments, he established the University College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts; and he led the university in a capital campaign, raising more than $600 million. He has been active on many prestigious boards, including the American Council on Education, the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Cancer Society Foundation. He has received 12 honorary degrees and is a former UDM trustee.  He lives with his wife, Nancy, in Snowmass, Colorado.

Distinguished graduate of the School of Dentistry '58, Dr. DiBiaggio was honored with the Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Award on April 11, 2014.


John A. DiBiaggio has had a distinguished career, initially as a dentist, and subsequently in academic leadership positions at major public and private universities for more than 35 years.

He is well-known for his commitment to excellence in education, promotion of diversity and inclusion, global scholarship and research, and focus on the ethics and practice of public service.

Recognized for his scholarly and professional accomplishments, he is the recipient of three earned degrees, twelve honorary degrees, and many prestigious awards.

He is admired by many for his tireless capacity for work, his boundless energy, his engaging personality and his dedication to the causes in which he believes, especially the value of higher education in producing successful, intelligent, thoughtful members of society.

He is a generous contributor of his time and talents to numerous educational and community organizations, including the American Council on Education, National Collegiate Athletic Association Foundation, American Film Institute and American Cancer Society.


University of Detroit Mercy

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