Dr. Erwin Schaffer, a former dean of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, worked hard in leading the effort to build Moos Tower, where the school is housed.

Schaffer, who was a pioneering periodontist, died Dec. 25 in Minneapolis of congestive heart failure.

Schaffer, who was dean of the school from 1964 to 1977, was 85.

"Moos Tower would not exist if Erwin Schaffer hadn't been dean at the time," said Dr. James Jensen, retired associate dean of academic affairs. Schaffer worked with the administration and both parties in the Legislature, and he was also a principal fundraiser for the project, completed in the mid-1970s.

After Schaffer earned his DDS degree at the University of Minnesota in 1945, he began his private practice in Minneapolis. By 1951, he had earned a graduate degree in periodontics at the university and found himself doing more teaching and research at the dental school.

After a stint with the Navy dental corps from 1952 to 1954, he rejoined the University of Minnesota's faculty.

By 1957, he was leading the Department of Periodontics, or the treatment of diseases that affect the supporting structures of the teeth.

He was a pioneer in using cartilage and the mineralized parts of the tooth to repair bone defects.

Dr. Bryan Michalowicz, associate professor of periodontology, who was a graduate student of Schaffer's, said he was a humble man and everything a mentor should be.

"He was supportive, and an outstanding clinician and researcher," Michalowicz said.

Schaffer helped out at the school until a year ago and students flocked to him, said Dr. Larry Wolff, interim department chairman of developmental and surgical sciences at the school.

Schaffer was the author of more than 100 publications, and in 1972 he was president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Schaffer was a fly fisherman, championship skeet shooter, bird hunter and student of history, especially fond of the Old West and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, said his son Michael, a Des Moines teacher.

"He was the eternal optimist," said his son.

In 1995, his son was driving him to the hospital for open-heart surgery, including experimental vein replacement and a quadruple bypass.

"He handed me two books," said his son. "He said: 'I want you to renew these.'"

Another son, Scott, died in 2000.

In addition to his son Michael, he is survived by his daughters Nancy Narr of Crystal and Ann Schaffer of Robbinsdale; a brother, Harold of Alexandria, and nine grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4343 Nicollet Av., Minneapolis. Visitation will be held at 9 a.m. at the society.

Ben Cohen • 612-673-4714