Delta Dental mourns loss of founding CEO

Nov. 2, 2007
Dr. F. Gene Dixon was a visionary who helped pioneer dental benefits industry.

SAN FRANCISCO--California's largest and oldest dental health plan mourns its earliest leader after F. Gene Dixon, DDS, died Oct. 26 at the age of 84.

Dr. Dixon will be remembered for his contributions to the success of Delta Dental of California, and later the nationwide system of Delta Dental Plans, beginning at a time when dentistry was widely regarded as uninsurable. The industry he helped pioneer today provides dental coverage for 170 million Americans.

Dr. Dixon became vice president and managing director of California Dental Association Service (the original name of Delta Dental of California) in 1959. Under Dr. Dixon's 18-year leadership, the company grew from its first client group with 1,800 enrollees, to more than 1,700 groups and 4.7 million enrollees by 1977 when he retired.

By the end of 2006, the company Dr. Dixon helped build had 18 million enrollees and posted just under $5 billion in gross revenues.

Dr. Dixon built a close relationship with the dental profession--a relationship that remains fundamental to the company's success today. Dr. Dixon's innovative approach to dental benefits also incorporated features that were important to dentists and clients: the freedom to choose any dentist, reimbursement directly to contracting dentists on a fee-for-service basis and encouragement of high standards of quality. Many of the company's concepts, policies and procedures from those early years remain today as industry standards.

With the foresight that characterized all of Dr. Dixon's efforts, he helped establish in 1965 the National Association of Dental Service Plans (later renamed Delta Dental Plans Association, the national system of Delta Dental member companies that now covers more than 50 million Americans).

Within five years, the strength of the young Delta Dental system convinced national corporations such as McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell International, Kaiser Industries and Lockheed to select Delta Dental coverage for their employees.

In 1977, when Dr. Dixon turned over the reins of the chief executive office to Erik D. Olsen, DDS, Delta Dental of California honored Dr. Dixon's legacy by establishing the F. Gene Dixon Student Leadership Award. This monetary award is given each year to California dental school students who demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities, and the leadership award program has since expanded to include dental students in states outside California.

"Dr. Dixon was a true pioneer in the dental benefits industry," said Gary D. Radine, Delta Dental president and CEO. "The organization built by Dr. Dixon placed this company on a solid foundation that we continue to build on today."