Dr. James Avery

Born August 6, 1921

Dr. James K. “Jim” Avery, 89, of Ann Arbor, MI, passed away on April 16, 2011 at Arbor Hospice. He was born August 6, 1921, in Holly, CO, to the late Willard Smith Avery, D.D.S., and Bertha Knuckey Avery. Jim enjoyed growing up in Pueblo, CO. His sister, Julia May Avery, died there in 2010. He is survived by his wife Dorothy “Dody” Thuerk Avery; daughter Nancy Jane Avery of Bellingham, WA; son David Lloyd Avery (Susan) of Beaver Island, MI; and son Robert Hugh Avery (Carol) of Coleman, MI. He is also survived by four grandchildren; John Paul Wilson and Alan James Avery of Bermuda, and Sarah Victoria Avery and Forrest Nathaniel Nevill Avery of Beaver Island. Jim also leaves behind other family members and special friends who loved him dearly. He was very caring and was the ultimate gentleman to his final day. Jim received his D.D.S. degree from the University of Kansas City in 1945. He then served for two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, putting his dentistry skills to work in Guam. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester, New York, where he met his wife, Dorothy, and they married in 1950. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as an assistant professor of dentistry in 1954, was promoted to associate professor in 1959, and to professor in 1963. He also was appointed as professor of anatomy in the Medical School in 1971. He held several administrative positions in the School of Dentistry, including chairman of the Department of Oral Biology. In 1970 Jim was appointed associate director of U of M’s Dental Research Institute; he later was promoted to director and served until 1987. In the mid-1970s, Jim was elected president of the International Association for Dental Research, through which he met scientists from around the world. He is a past chairman of the American Association of Dental Schools’ Anatomical Sciences section, and he served as consultant on research to the Veterans Administration Hospital of Ann Arbor. He received the American Academy of Dental Medicine Award and was elected a fellow of the American College of Dentists and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Jim was humble about his many accomplishments, and felt that they were never as important as his students were to him. Jim retired in 1991 but became a devoted volunteer with several organizations including Dawn Farm, for which he served as a trustee for many years, and with Mended Hearts. He spent countless hours visiting with hospital patients on behalf of Bethlehem United Church of Christ. He also continued revising and publishing updated editions of earlier textbooks that he wrote. Jim served as a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts from 1966 to 1970. Cremation has taken place. A memorial service to celebrate Jim’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, April 25, at Bethlehem United Church of Christ, 423 S. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Dawn Farm, to the Boy Scouts of America, or to a charity of your choice. Jim Avery lived a full life and he will be missed.


  • Memorial Service Monday, April 25, 2011

Dr. James Avery

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April 26, 2011

Dear Avery Family,

The Parker and Doerr families send our love and prayers to all of you. Jim was a special person. We recall with fondness the times at the swim club while growing up. We enjoyed keeping up with the family while Bob lived in Ann Arbor. You are in our thoughts.
Katie Doerr Parker - for Bob and Mary Doerr, too.

John & Sandy Awood

April 25, 2011

Jim enriched our lives in many ways, too numerous to describe. What luck to have moved in next door - one of life's gifts! We will never forget Jim's generosity to our daughter when she needed an interview with a "senior" for a high school class - & the many accomplishments he just didn't detail, Jim pushing my car through snow (!), our occasional lunches at Flim Flam, our garage conversations, his dedication to visiting hospital patients. Jim was a great, humble gentleman. We are honored to have known him & will always remember him.

Elizabeth (Elsie) Nolan

April 25, 2011

Jim was one of the pioneering Mended Hearts at University Hospital, visiting many patients/families on the cardiac units (7BC and 4C). His presence was calming and helpful to everyone (patients/families and staff). Even at an event held in his honor, he was still focused on others, interested and engaging. To me, Jim was/is an exemplar on how to live your life. All the best to his family.

Holly Sue Ayres

April 25, 2011

Best wishes to the family. I was so delighted when I received my rose bowl tickets for my birthday back in the 80s. Michigan won and I was delighted. Thanks to DR Avery I have a great memory.

John & Jane Schneider

April 25, 2011

God bless Dorothy and family. James and Will spent many hours at he hospital making everyone feel much better. He was a real gentleman.James will be missed by many people ~ Bethlehem.

Ellen Burton

April 24, 2011

Doty, family, Jim will be missed. He was a good friend to me and to so many in the community. Generous with his personal and professional experience always in the spirit of helping others. I will never forget him and I'm grateful to have called him friend.

Richard L. Christiansen

April 22, 2011

Dear Doty, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We will all miss Jim and we all celebrate his life and achievements which were dedicated to his family, his students and the research of oral health sciences and disorders. His work has benefitted all peoples around the world. Thank you, Jim!

Mark Hodgson MD

April 21, 2011

I assisted Dr. Avery as a research assistant for a couple years in the late 1980's during my undergraduate training. We studied fetal development and neural crest cell migration under the influence of Vitamin A and its isomers. He was always supportive and understanding of time needed to study for exams, and he always valued my suggestions. An excellent mentor, scientist, and teacher that will surely be missed.

Geoffrey Sperber

April 21, 2011

As a co-author to his textbooks on Oral Histology, I remember Jim with fondness and great esteem. We have lost a distinguished scientist, and my condolences to members of his family,
Geoffrey Sperber, Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta, Canada.

Walter Loesche

April 21, 2011

Jim was one of the nicest, kind and gentle persons that I have known. He was always helpful and considerate to me in my academic career.He left a legacy that I will fondly remember.