Alumni Profile

Dr. Robert Sturkey ’75

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Alumni Profile

Dr. Robert Sturkey ’75

After studying at the College of Steubenville, Dr. Robert Sturkey followed the Lord’s call to become a dentist.

Summer 2022 | Melissa Zifzal

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Class of 1975

When Dr. Robert Sturkey ’75 attended the College of Steubenville, its future was in jeopardy. He remembers seeing a “for sale” sign outside St. Thomas More Hall and debating whether he should transfer.

Though not Catholic, Robert came to Steubenville because he knew a Catholic college education would be rigorous, based on his experience at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where he was the first African American to graduate.

Ultimately, Robert decided to stay and finish his biology major because of the relationships he developed with his professors, the small class sizes, and the caliber of education.

“I felt I was being well prepared,” he asserts.

God placed several people in his life, Robert says, which also encouraged him to stay in Steubenville. He estimates that about 30 African American students attended the College in the mid-1970s, and only a few African Americans worked there. He credits Dennis Palmer, a financial aid administrator, for helping him find aid opportunities to cover his education. He also appreciates his friendship with fellow student Clifford “Clem” Fletcher, whose mother, Charlotte, cooked for the Franciscan friars for more than 50 years and welcomed Robert into her home with a standing Sunday dinner invitation.

Robert notes that his high school education in the late 1960s and his higher education throughout the 1970s, which included dentistry school at The Ohio State University, occurred during a period of significant social change in America.

“What that did was give me a lot of determination to not only finish school but to get out into practice and be a voice in my community.”

Robert returned to his Akron neighborhood in 1979 to open his dentistry office and remains in practice, with wife, Erin, managing the front office.

“The Lord has me where he wanted me to be,” Robert says of the call he felt as a 14-year-old to become a dentist. “I’m not here by chance or because someone told me to be a dentist. He always seemed to draw me to that.”

Robert’s faith informs his practice; he and Erin take time for devotions before work each morning, praying for their patients and staff. They have also provided financial support to patients in the mission field.

In his free time, Robert enjoys reading and traveling, which he and his wife hope to resume soon. He previously enjoyed running, completing 14 marathons, though several surgeries forced him to stop. The Sturkeys live in West Akron.


Melissa Zifzal writes from Wintersville, Ohio.

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