John Joseph “Jack” Sheridan of Trinity, Florida, died on February 2, 2018, at the age of 85. With his passing, the orthodontic community has lost one of its true luminaries and most original characters.
Jack, a diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, had a lengthy and exemplary private practice career in Shreveport, Louisiana. He taught at Louisiana State University (LSU) for over 30 years and gradually assumed a full-time role in academics. Many of the contributions to our specialty for which he will be most remembered were developed during his years of teaching at the LSU’s School of Dentistry. In 2005, after the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina, he relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, and accepted a professorship in the Department of Orthodontics at Jacksonville University.
A native of New York City, Jack completed undergraduate studies in 1954 at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, he joined the United States Marine Corps and became a fighter pilot. When he left the Corps as a captain, his career as an aviator, a chapter in his life that shaped many of the personality traits for which he was justifiably well known, continued. He took a job in Canada as a bush and mapping helicopter pilot, and narrowly escaped an early demise during a mapping expedition in the remote Otish Mountains when ice on the rotors of his copter forced a crash landing. He was fortuitously rescued after surviving 3 days in harsh conditions. Thenceforth, he forswore wintry climes, and moved to Louisiana, where he took a job with Petroleum Helicopters. He ferried offshore workers back and forth from Lafayette, Louisiana, to their drilling platforms.
Married with 4 children, Jack decided that he needed a more stable lifestyle and future. He applied to the School of Dentistry at New Orleans’ Loyola University of the South and received his DDS degree in 1965. He was immediately accepted into the orthodontic residency program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He received his MS degree and Certificate in Orthodontics in 1967.
Over the course of his career, and particularly after he began to devote the bulk of his efforts to education, Jack became one of the most visible and esteemed clinicians in our specialty. His primary contributions centered on his pioneering of the clear Essix retainer, and his efforts to popularize interproximal air-rotor stripping, which he used primarily for adult patients as a method to gain dental arch space to avoid extractions. So often was he featured as a national and international lecturer on this subject that he deservedly earned from his peers the affectionate sobriquet, “Jack the Stripper.” He authored or coauthored over 50 publications, was involved in over 30 research endeavors, and was an associate editor of the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics . Another of his significant innovations was Ortholit—the precursor to what the specialty now knows as Practical Reviews in Orthodontics. Jack reviewed current literature, taped these reviews, and shared the tapes with students and colleagues. In 1996, he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Baylor College of Dentistry, Department of Orthodontics, and, in 2017, the Lifetime Service Award from LSU’s School of Dentistry.
Jack is survived by 3 adult children, all graduates of the LSU’s School of Dentistry: Drs Ellen S. Kinsey, Maureen Sheridan-Fenton, and Robert Sheridan.
In most instances, a recitation of the biographical details of any person’s life, such as those offered here, fails to yield a complete portrait of the person who inhabited those particulars. For those in our specialty who knew Jack Sheridan and, especially, for a generation of aspiring orthodontists whom he mentored as students, this reality truly pertains. Simply put, Jack was one of the most entertaining and engaging personalities one could ever hope to encounter. With his history in aviation, he combined a swaggering bravado with an absolute refusal to regard himself too seriously. As a result, all in his personal orbit were treated to a delightful mix of academic discipline, scrupulous attention to detail, and, at the same time, boisterously self-deprecating good humor. He was a master of 1-line zingers, an inventory of which has been dutifully and lovingly catalogued by his former students. For example, during a student seminar presentation when, to Jack’s growing frustration, the student seemed to so fully focus on treating to preconceived “norms” that he flirted with losing sight of the human being under diagnostic consideration, Jack half-seriously proclaimed cephalometry to be “orthodontics’ answer to astrology.” As colleagues, we all learned from him, and we accumulated a veritable storehouse of stories and laughs along the way. He will be deeply missed . . . but, as we all hope to be, always recalled with a smile!