Jerome H. Sklaroff, 96, of Philadelphia, an orthodontist and professor of orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, died Monday, March 18, of a blood disorder at his home.
The son of Eastern European immigrants, he was born in Philadelphia in 1922. He graduated from Overbrook High School and then enrolled at Penn in 1939. He was drafted into the Army in 1942, but continued his schooling at the Temple University School of Dentistry, graduating in 1945.
In May 1945, near the end of World War II, Dr. Sklaroff began active Army duty. He served as a dentist and dental surgeon, first at Fort Leavenworth Prison in Kansas and later in Germany. He was awarded the American Campaign Medal and the Army Occupation Medal before his honorable discharge in June 1947 with the rank of captain.
Following his military service, he enrolled at the University of Michigan School of Orthodontics and graduated in 1951.
In 1952, at the age of 30, Dr. Sklaroff opened a solo practice in Center City. At the same time, he became the youngest member of the orthodontic faculty at Penn.
During the next 67 years, he was a teacher, mentor, and friend to more than 500 graduate students in orthodontics from around the world. He often welcomed them into his home to join his family for Thanksgiving, Passover, or dinner. Many stayed in touch for years after graduation, continuing to seek his advice on business, orthodontics, and personal matters.
Peter Greco, co-clinic director of Penn’s orthodontic department and a clinical professor of orthodontics, said Dr. Sklaroff’s candor was legendary.
“There was no ambiguity about his opinion or his sentiment,” Greco said. “His command of orthodontics and his unrelenting status as a lifelong student of the specialty until his last days made him an orthodontic luminary in Penn’s department of orthodontics for over 67 years. We have lost a giant of a man.”
Salvatore DeRicco, a former Penn student practicing in White Plains, N.Y., posted his recollections online. “Never without an amusing story or a hilarious joke, Dr. Sklaroff’s humor was second only to his extraordinary dedication to Penn Orthodontics,” he wrote. “And his pragmatic orthodontic lessons have been invaluable to my practice.”
Dr. Sklaroff valued experiences beyond work. “While there are limits to how much we can have in life, the possibilities for leading fuller and more satisfying lives are almost limitless,” he said in a 1997 speech to Penn graduates. “No one can have it all, but you can look beyond a narrow ambition to include other things that give life purpose and meaning.”
In line with his advice, Dr. Sklaroff was passionate about art, music, and ballet, and liked to attend evening concerts at the Curtis Institute of Music.
He was an athlete with tremendous energy. In his 70s, he began biking with a group of athletes called the Alte Kakers, a Yiddish term for old-timers. For years they biked hundreds of miles each Sunday and traveled the world on cycling adventures. He played tennis into his 90s and coached his daughters and grandson in the sport.
Dr. Sklaroff is survived by his wife of 51 years, Carole Luppescu Sklaroff; daughters Sonya and Lizabeth; and three grandchildren.
Private services were held on Tuesday, March 19.