Class of 2021 Alumni Spirit Awards: Richard Persiani, D.D.S. ’73 — professor, medical missionary

Richard PersianiEach year, University of Detroit Mercy chooses an alumnus from each of its Colleges or Schools to honor as someone who has excelled in his or her profession, demonstrated outstanding leadership in work and devoted himself or herself in service to the larger community. Award recipients reflect the University’s mission of excellence and service and bring pride to their alma mater.

This year, the University will celebrate seven honorees at a special ceremony Friday, Oct. 1, at the Fillmore Hotel Detroit. We will introduce the award winners on this blog before the event. If you are interested in attending the event, you can purchase tickets at

For 2021, Detroit Mercy Dentistry will honor Richard Persiani, D.D.S. ’73, M.S., an affiliate professor at the school.

Persiani has served on the Detroit Mercy Dental faculty for more than 45 years, and has served on the craniofacial surgical team at Providence and Beaumont hospitals. He also uses his skills to provide medical treatments to the community, both local and global.

He is the founder of the dental clinic at Vista Maria Community Services where he provides dental care for young women who have suffered the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma, as well as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who run the center. For 10 years, he was the co-director of the Children’s Tooth Fairy Foundation, providing dental care, financing, support and logistics for more than 2,000 underserved children in Wayne County.

He has participated in more than 30 mission trips with Operation Smile, providing surgical care for children with cleft lips or palates.

Closer to home, he and his wife, Penny, who he met while in dental school, also volunteer with the penguins and kangaroos at the Detroit Zoo and have the unique title of Distinguished Clowns in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

To read a story about Persiani’s charity work and how he met his wife, click here

The other men who will receive the Alumni Spirit Award this year are:

Check back to see their stories.

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