Faculty & Alumni
Related Articles
Related Links

“Old Friends Are Best” by Orion W. Bedell, 1945

Orion Willis Bedell (1870-1946) was a 1892 graduate of the Dental Department of Washington University (Missouri Dental College) and a 1894 graduate of the St. Louis Medical College.  His father John E. Bedell was also a dentist, as was his brother Charles T. Bedell, his son Everett Willis Bedell, and his grandson Robert Everett Bedell.  O. W. Bedell joined the faculty of the Dental Department after his graduation and served until 1902, when he left to devote himself full-time to his private practice.  This tribute to Pippen was presented at a testimonial dinner for Benno E. Lischer and Bland N. Pippen and reprinted in the May 1945 issue of the Washington University Dental Journal.

by Orion Willis Bedell, D.M.D., ’92, M.D., ’94
St. Louis, Missouri

Dr. Bland Nixon Pippin joined the teaching staff of this school more than forty-three years ago.  I, who am past seventy-five years of age and have done nothing else but dentistry for almost fifty-eight years, have been allotted ten minutes to express my appreciation for the privilege of a place on this program, to express my regard for a friendship dating many years back, to give a brief summary of his life, to tell of his achievements, and to state why honors should be bestowed on him this evening.

On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln, who had but recently gone through the agony of leading a nation in a terrible war and whose mind had been purified and chastened by suffering, made a seven minute speech following an oration of an hour and a half in length, which had been given before him from the same platform.  For clarity of thought and beauty of diction, as well as grand prophetic hope, that speech has become a classic in literature and a masterpiece of the English language.  I wish now that I might, under the solemnizing and refining thought that Doctor Pippin is lying desperately ill, be inspired to put in words some message that if he could listen to and hear would be a source of pleasure and consolation to him.  I will try to tell of my regard for him and of the esteem in which he is held by his associates in the profession.

Some men receive honors by right of birth, as in blood lines of a monarchy.  Some have honors thrust upon them, as in a political appointment.  Some gain them by a never-failing life-time of devotion to a set plan of life carrying an ideal to an ultimate climax.  It is to this latter class that Doctor Pippin belonged.  He probably never gained acclaim as a silver-tongued orator who could sway his audience or hold them spellbound, although he commands a good mastery of the language, a rich vocabulary, and possesses a magnetic personality.  He never spent a lifetime in laborious study with the ideas of adding alphabetical letters to his name to signify degrees conferred by institutions of learning, but he did embellish and, ornament his D.M.D. degree.  He never devoted his lifetime to acquiring wealth for the sake of riches that he might impress his associates with his ability as a financier.  But by his daily tasks, patiently performed, in his teaching and demonstrations before his classes and his association with the members of his chosen profession, he made his greatest reputation.

These impressions may not have been recorded in weighty tomes or records of learned societies or in the records of great inventions, although he did some valuable research in temporo-mandibular disturbances.  But his greatest influence has been in his teaching work.  The succeeding classes coming under administration through the many years have literally run into hundreds of students.  These records are not written on tablets of stone but upon the fleshy fibres of the hearts and minds and the conscience of the men who have been taught by him.  And I am sure that these men who have gone out will have a higher conception of the standing and dignity of their profession, and have been and will be better dentists, better professional men and better members of the society among which they may cast their lot, by having known and been taught by Doctor Pippin.

Doctor Pippin is a stickler for the high ideals of his profession.  He believes in an elevated standard of professional ethics and the Golden Rule.  He looks down upon any quackery as false representation in the practice of dentistry; and I do not think he considers the ability to collect large fees, alone, as constituting greatness in the profession.

He always felt and frequently expressed himself that there might be a closed affiliation between the medical and dental professions.  If you will permit a personal application, I will state that I have always felt the same way.  In the old days when I matriculated at the dental school, more than fifty-three years ago, it was permitted and recommended that one could matriculate in both medicine and dentistry and carry the work of both at the same time.  It meant that one had to burn more of the midnight oil, but it was worth it.  I did carry both and made almost record grades in competition with some splendid students of both departments.  I feel proud to know that I had associated with me in the medical classes such outstanding men as Dr. Vilray Papin Blair, who became internationally known in surgery; Dr. Harry Crossen, whose textbooks on diseases of women are used in many medical schools of the land; Dr. Horace Soper, the famous internist; and Dr. Albert Taussig, who became well known in cancer research.  I have received from this training many things besides a personal gratification in being able to write the M.D. after my name.  I am sure that Doctor Pippin would be pleased if, even now, a plan might be arranged by the university authorities so that an ambitious student might take both courses and at the end of his training choose the one he would actually practice.  I am sure that many dentists would benefit by a greater knowledge of the rudiments of medicine, and also that a host of medical men would be better with some knowledge of dentistry.

Doctor Pippin loved his ancestral acres on the banks of the Gasconade River in this state.  The gushing springs, the rippling water, the grand wooded and templed hills, and the rugged bluffs were a source of great delight to him.  I am sure he has often thought that as the strain of work was over he might retire and enjoy an old-age leisure in beauties like these.

I feel that it is a fitting thing that he be accorded honors here this evening; that his portrait be hung among those who have gone before and contributed their share to the elevation of the school to the high standard it has attained among the dental institutions of the country.  In the light of Doctor Pippin’s state of health, that he is stricken by disease and patiently bearing suffering, I may be permitted to close my remarks by recounting an occurrence that is reported from a railway of a southern state.  An engineer on one of the fast trains of that road had started for his run and before he had gone very far, owing to a mixing of the signals, his train ran into another, causing a terrible wreck with much destruction of property and loss of life.  He was taken from his cab in an unconscious condition.  Several hours later, as his shocked and injured brain began to function and a coordination was established between brain and sight, he slowly opened his eyes and looking up to a woman standing by his bed with tears in her eyes said: “You are my wife.”  “Yes,” she answered, “I am your wife.”  Then turning to the other side of the bed he spoke to a couple standing there, and said: “And you are my father and mother.”  “Yes,” they said.  Then with a wonderful smile of joy on his face, he said: “I MUST BE HOME.”

I for my part am a firm believer in immortality.  I think thousands of folks who are now giving up their sons in this war are also looking for a life after death.  Who knows but with the ending of Doctor Pippin’s life, when the book of records of his service and honors shall be closed and ended, and he slips out into that bourne from which no traveler ever returns, that he may awaken to a conscious existence where he may look about to see his loved ones who have gone on before and say as a beneficent benediction to a life well spent . . . “Well, I MUST BE HOME.”


  Home | History | Biographies | Faculty & Alumni | Timeline | Related Articles | Related Links
Washington University School of Medicine Bernard Becker Medical Library