College of Veterinary Medicine

About the College of Veterinary Medicine

History of Veterinary Medicine in Washington

The college of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University was founded in 1899 beginning with a single $60 shed. It is the fifth oldest veterinary college in the United States and sixth oldest among the veterinary colleges in the U.S. and Canada.

From these modest beginnings, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine has developed into a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art complex serving the entire Pacific Northwest.

Fun Through the Ages

The Life and Times of the Washington State University  College of Veterinary Medicine by  Ghery D. Pettit, DVM Professor Emeritus, Veterinary Surgery (1926-2009). Speech presented in 1999  to the WSU Retired Faculty Association


Historic WSU Veterinary Hospital Ambulance

Milestones in the History of Veterinary Medicine in Washington

1853 - 1889

Washington territorial days--there is no regulated control of veterinary medicine.

Nov. 11, 1889

Washington is granted statehood.

Mar. 28, 1890

House Bill No. 90 is signed into law creating the State Agricultural College and School of Science located at Pullman.

Dec. 1, 1891

The Board of Regents creates the position of Chair of Veterinary Science.

Jan. 13, 1892

The State Agricultural College, Experiment Station and School of Science located in Pullman opens its doors to students. The original Land Grant legislation (Morrill Act) specifies that one of the major subjects to be taught is, "veterinary art." Charles E. Munn, a veterinarian, is among the first six faculty members.

May 1893

Munn leaves in the wake of political turmoil. The position of Chair of Veterinary Science is abolished.

Sept. 3, 1895

The Washington Legislature creates the office of State Veterinarian specifying that they also be the Professor of Veterinary Science at the college and a member of the State Board of Health. Sofus Bertelson Nelson, a native of Denmark, an Iowa State College graduate, and Spokane practitioner, is appointed to the post by the Board of Regents. Veterinary activities begin immediately at the college. The original curriculum is not a professional program but is a series of courses intended to supplement agriculture courses or provide preliminary training for students wishing to transfer to another school to complete veterinary degrees. Tuition and room fees are free for Washington residents.

Nov. 19, 1895

The Board of Regents authorizes President Enoch A. Bryan to have a, "shed constructed at the south end of the armory for the veterinary department, the cost not to exceed $60.00."

Sept. 1899

The "School of Veterinary Science" is made a major division of the college admitting its first class of three students to the new three-year professional curriculum. This date is considered to be the official birth of today's College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. Classes, laboratories, and the animal hospital are relocated to the newly completed Science Hall, later to be called Arts Hall, and today known as Murrow East. The clinic begins as a free service on one day a week only. Ailing animals are often temporarily pastured on the lawns of campus.


Two of the first three veterinary students graduate.


A four-year curriculum leading to a B.S. is introduced alongside the three-year curriculum. The curricula are conducted simultaneously until 1917 when the three-year program is abolished. Also this year, Wyatt E. Ralston, an Ohio State graduate, is added to the faculty as, "house surgeon." His salary is $900 per year.

Mar. 11, 1907

The first state Veterinary Practice Act is signed into law granting the governor the power to appoint an examining board composed of three graduate veterinarians, one to be the state veterinarian. All graduate veterinarians in the state are required to show proof of graduation by July 1. Non-graduate veterinarians who've practiced in the state for not less than two years are grandfathered in. Interestingly, graduates of human medical schools can become licensed veterinarians in Washington simply by showing proof of graduation.

Fall 1907

The first annual Vet-Pharmic football game is played. The event becomes a major campus attraction until 1957 when the advent of modern protective gear and concerns for student safety saw the contest fade away. The Pharmics are said to have won only three to four games over the years. For a time basketball games take the place of the football game but they lack the same appeal and they too, disappear in the 1960s. The annual football game is followed each year by the Hobo Dance. For the dance, male students and faculty grow their beards out in honor of the vagrant namesake of the dance. Dancing, drink, and merriment often flow into the following morning. It too, is done away with in 1957 after a particularly raucous occasion also raises concerns for student safety.


A new three story, brick veterinary science building is erected on the Pullman campus. A two-story brick building is constructed at 225 Indiana Ave. in Spokane and established as a satellite teaching hospital.

Jan. 13, 190

The first official meeting of veterinarians in the state of Washington for the purpose of forming an association takes place in Seattle. J. Hilton is elected the first president of the new Washington State Veterinary Medical Association.

Apr. 6, 1911

Dean Nelson recommends a schedule of fees to the Board of Regents: "For the hospital at Pullman, 60 cents per day for feed and care. For floating horses teeth, 50 cents. All other treatment in the hospital, free." The first dog ambulance is purchased for $300.


Washington's legislature creates the state's Department of Agriculture. Harry T. Graves (WSU '10) a veterinarian is named Acting Commissioner of Agriculture.

Nov. 13, 1914

Two cars of cattle enroute from Wisconsin to Roy, Wash. arrive in Spokane. Animal health officials have previously been warned that the animals had been exposed to foot-and-mouth disease in a St. Paul, Minn. stockyard. Quick action on the part of veterinarians, state agricultural officials, and a cooperative owner, stops a potential outbreak before it can happen. The positive diagnosis was made on Nov. 16 and by Nov. 21 all the cattle had been destroyed and cremated and all temporary holding pens, litter, etc. had been burned.

July 1915

The first Tri-State or Pacific Northwest Meeting of veterinarians is held in Bellingham. As a region, the meetings continue until 1955 when Washington withdraws to concentrate on in-state efforts.


The School of Veterinary Science becomes the College of Veterinary Science, complete with deanship.


The first continuing education program for veterinarians is held in Pullman. It is sponsored by the college and assisted by the fledgling state association and northwest veterinarians.

Oct. 1, 1919

Nelson resigns as Dean of Veterinary Science to assume the post of Director of Agricultural Extension. In 18 years of service, records show he personally examined 149,182 animals. Cost of the services rendered is $45,000 total.


The college's first African-American student, Winfred A. Jordan, graduates. Jordan is a transfer student from the soon-too-close San Francisco Veterinary College.


The Department of Licenses is created. Emerson Anton Ehmer (WSU '18) establishes the first small animal hospital in Seattle. He goes on to a distinguished career in the development and advancement of veterinary orthopedics. Today his original hospital is known as the Seattle Emergency Hospital.


The Spokane hospital is closed and all teaching is transferred back to Pullman.


Ehmer reports the first successful treatment of a femoral head fracture in a dog utilizing a plaster cast encircling the pelvis.


The College of Veterinary Science becomes the College of Veterinary Medicine.


The first roads are pushed into Ilwaco, Washington. Prior to this, all transportation to the area was by boat, hindering veterinary care among the coastal farms.


Skagit County becomes the first county in Washington to begin a bovine tuberculosis eradication program.


Washington appropriates extra funds to begin tuberculosis testing King County's 40,000 head of cattle. At the first testing, over 8,000 head are identified as positive reactors. Herds of up to 150 head are often found 100 percent reactive. It will take until 1988 before Washington is declared TB free.


Myron Thom (WSU '29) begins pioneering radiology as a science and therapeutic modality in veterinary medicine.


AVMA accreditation of veterinary colleges begins. WSC's College of Veterinary Medicine is immediately accredited and has maintained uninterrupted accreditation ever since.


Washington State College graduates its first female veterinarian, Catherine Elizabeth Roberts. She goes on to be the first licensed female veterinarian in California and is among only twelve in the nation at the time.


Washington begins a statewide brucellosis eradication program. It will not be until 1988 that the state is declared brucellosis free.


The curriculum is increased from four to five years with one year outside the college.


The State Department of Agriculture and the State Board of Health initiate the first ever meat inspection regulations in Washington. C. L. Norris is appointed to head up the service by Marvin Hales, supervisor of Dairy and Livestock. Also this year, the five year veterinary curriculum at WSC is discontinued. Freshman enrollment is limited to 40 students.


Dean Wegner spends six months touring Europe examining veterinary facilities for ideas to be used in expanding the college's facilities.


Washington's bovine brucellosis program is changed from a "cattle reduction" program to a "disease eradication" program. This signals a major shift in thinking in herd health management.


Following a series of discussions between J. E. Schillinger, superintendent of disease control for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dean E. E. Wegner of the College of Veterinary Medicine at WSC, a cooperative agreement is signed whereby the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey and the college embark on research work into the diseases of fur bearing animals. Frank McKenney is the first veterinarian employed to start the work. The strong and productive relationship now under the administration of the USDA continues today.


Ehmer begins working with the Kirschner Manufacturing Company of Vashon, Washington to develop the Kirschner-Ehmer half-pin splint. The device and modifications are used by more veterinarians than any other form of external skeletal fixation.


Only Virginia leads Washington among all 50 states in brucellosis eradication. It has been a monumental veterinary effort recognized nationwide and especially in Washington due to its rugged geography and harsh winter weather. Also, faculty member E. C. McCulloch publishes, Disinfection and Sterilization. It is the first book ever written by an active member of the WSC College of Veterinary Medicine faculty.


The Washington State Veterinary Medical Association is incorporated. Federal authorities request that eligible veterinary students apply for commission as 1st Lieutenants in the Medical Administration Corps so that they can continue their education without interruption by their local draft boards. And, what will become McCoy Hall in 1952 is completed in September.


The majority of veterinary students resign their commissions in the Medical Administration Corps to join the Enlisted Reserve Corps and are assigned duty in the Army Specialized Training Program, also known as the notorious, ASTP. Specifically, the group's name is Company C AST Unit No. 3923. In July, the company is activated and sent to Ft. Lewis for induction. Five days later, they are sent back to Pullman to complete their education. Freshmen and sophomores are quartered in the Lambda Chi house, juniors and seniors in the Theta Chi house. Reportedly, the Army has a difficult time enforcing a curfew among the veterinary students since they are virtually the only men on a campus full of women. What will become Wegner Hall in 1952 is completed and occupied.


The ASTP is broken up. Juniors are discharged in the summer and the new senior class moves into the Sigma Phi Epsilon house and Ferry Hall. Following discharge from ASTP, most apply for ranking as a 1st Lieutenant in the Veterinary Corps. Eventually most are commissioned and see active duty, some even into the Korean War.


The first Borden Award is given in the college marking the beginning of annual awards programs. Today the event, held each spring, awards over $110,000 to WSU veterinary students.


Fur bearing animal research at WSC is placed under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry. Later it will change again to the Animal Disease and Parasite Research Branch of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA.


The first graduate degree ever awarded by the college is earned by one of its alumni. John Gorham (WSU '46) earns his Masters of Science Degree in pathology under D. R. Cordy. Later the pair go on to discover a rickettsia that is the cause of salmon disease in dogs and foxes.


The first Junior Review is presented to the veterinary faculty and students. It is a lighthearted series of skits and musical presentations which lampoon the authority figures connected with veterinary education in Washington.


The South Puget Sound Veterinary Medical Association is started. Puyallup's William F. Harris (WSU '43) is elected the first president.


The recently completed animal clinic and classroom-laboratory buildings are named after J. E. McCoy and E. E. Wegner respectively. Long time colleagues and rivals, McCoy was a clinical instructor and friend of the students, while Wegner was the intellectual and administrator. Both separately served as dean of the college during their careers. In April, the Iota chapter of Phi Zeta is officially chartered at WSC. Although the Kappa Chapter of Alpha Psi precedes Phi Zeta, and for a time they co-exist, Alpha Psi is no longer represented at WSU.


Radiology facilities at WSC are expanded into a new room measuring 37 by 23 feet. The main x-ray room is 23 by 21 feet and a laboratory lecture room fills out the remainder. Modern, powerful equipment is installed including a GE Maximar 250 III with medical x-ray head, mounted on an electrically operated jib crane. A diagnostic unit manufactured by Standard X-ray Co. is mounted from the ceiling. Upon completion, the WSC veterinary x-ray facility is the best in the country and perhaps the world. Also this year, the leptospirosis barn capable of housing 50 animals is completed.


Under the direction of George Stabenfeldt (WSC '55, '56, & '62), the junior class of veterinary students enters the annual campus songfest. The presentation of an original score, "Dystocia," is enough to win and marks the beginning of a tradition of dominance of the event.


Distinguished veterinary pathologists, H. A. Smith and T. C. Jones (WSU '34) publish the first edition of their landmark text, Veterinary Pathology.


D. C. Blood and J. A. Henderson publish the first edition of Veterinary Medicine. The book goes on to become the authoritative text on large animal medicine for a generation of veterinary students. Henderson is dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine from 1963 to 1973.


Veterinary students are disqualified from competing in the annual campus songfest after dominating the competition since 1955

The competition committee rules that the contest is only for campus living groups and that the veterinary students don't qualify.


The Equine Disease Laboratory is completed located on Airport Road on the eastern fringe of campus

. Mar. 18, 1967

A five-person Education Committee is appointed by the WSVMA. It marks the first direct administrative role the group plays in continuing education and curriculum development at WSU.


The old mink farm is demolished and new facilities are occupied on Airport Road.

June 1970

Over 5,140 pets are vaccinated against rabies in the South Puget Sound Veterinary Medical Association Rabies Clinic Program.

Mar. 15, 1972

The WSVMA establishes the Foundation for Veterinary Medical Research, Inc. as a separate corporation.


A two-story addition is built on McCoy Hall. The space is used primarily for faculty offices and research.


The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory is officially created with new funds from the legislature and existing resources. Today it is a fully accredited facility and one of only a handful fully integrated with veterinary schools nationwide.

Apr. 12, 1976

The WSVMA votes to authorize the hiring of Mel Gaumer, the group's first legislative advocate.

Sept. 29, 1977

The Arthur H. Caine Veterinary Medical Center is dedicated in Caldwell, Idaho. The center serves as the WOI program as the primary focus in production medicine education for WSU WOI veterinary students.


A modern veterinary science building is completed and dedicated on the WSU campus. Also, this is the year hog cholera is officially declared eliminated from Washington.


The Washington-Oregon-Idaho Regional Program in Veterinary Medical Education is formed after over seven years of discussion and preliminary agreements. Known as WOI, the program also serves Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming students through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) compact. Since its creation the WOI program has served as model for other cooperative veterinary education programs nationwide. This year the AVMA holds its 116th annual meeting in Seattle.

June 22, 1979

The Tri-County Veterinary Medical Association is divided to form the constituent local associations; the Snohomish County VMA and the Tri-County VMA.

Oct. 4, 1980

The Hitchcock Research Track is dedicated on the WSU campus. It is the only horseracing facility of its type built for research purposes on a university campus in the U.S.


For the first time in the college's history, more female than male students apply and are admitted into the DVM program. The trend continues today with female enrollment representing about 60 percent of all veterinary students. Also this year, a major $12 million remodeling of Wegner Hall is completed.


A $3 million multi-purpose animal holding and care facility is completed adjoining existing animal care facilities in the Bustad Veterinary Science Building.


The veterinary science building is officially named for dean emeritus, Leo K. Bustad.

Sept. 13, 1985

Greg Hanon is voted by the WSVMA to succeed Gaumer as the second legislative advocate.


The WSVMA establishes the Chemically Impaired Veterinarians' Program.


WSU introduced the first elective alternative laboratory course on basic surgical techniques which uses cadavers of animals euthanized for humane reasons to avoid use of surplus animals for than purpose.


The American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care grants WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine full accreditation on the college's first attempt. WSU is one of only a few such veterinary schools with full AAALAC accreditation in North America.

Sept. 29, 1990

The Caring Call statue is dedicated on the WSU campus. It is the only bronze in the country which depicts a human administering medical care to an animal. The piece also represents the combined fundraising abilities of WSU alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends.

April 1991

Governor Booth Gardner signs a state budget allocating nearly $30 million in funds for construction of a new veterinary teaching hospital at WSU. Also, the federal government provides nearly $1.2 million for detailed planning of an animal disease biotechnology facility to be built near the new hospital. The total federal building project exceeds $21.3 million.

July 1991

The 128th Annual American Veterinary Medical Association meeting is held in Seattle.


The Center for the Study of Animal Well-Being at Washington State University is a cooperative effort between the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. Its goal is to produce and distribute the best possible information on what factors of animal care and use controlled by humans are truly in the animals' best interest. The approximately $3 million privately funded center is approved by the University Senate.



Dr. John Gorham was the 28th recipient of the WSU Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award.



Groundbreaking took place for the Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility (ADBF)


The new Veterinary Teaching Hospital is opened.


The Center for Reproductive Biology is established, an interdepartmental program involving 12 departments and 5 colleges at WSU.


The CL Davis Foundation for the Advancement of Veterinary and Comparative Pathology honor Dr. John Gorham, Dr. Thomas Jones, class of 1935 and Dr. Floris M. Garner, Class of 1950, former chairman of veterinary pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C. by naming them Legends in Veterinary Pathology.


Microbiologist Katherine O'Rourke, immunologist Timothy Baszler, large animal clinician Steven Parish, class of 1973 and USDA Animal Disease Research Unit Leader Donald Knowles announce the first practical preclinical test for scrapie in sheep.


Dr. Leo Bustad, died of pneumonia at the age of 78.

Nov. 1999

The Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility (ADBF) opens.


The Veterinary College publishes a Centennial History Book. 

Aug. 1999

The Class of 2003 is formally welcomed to the Veterinary Profession during the first White Coat Ceremony. The White Coat Ceremony creates an important focus for students entering veterinary school. In the presence of family, friends, and faculty members, student-veterinarians are welcomed into the veterinary community and are “cloaked” with their first white coats.

Oct. 1999 

Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine establishes a program to help people grieving the loss of a pet. The Pet Loss Hotline acts as an outlet for people to share their feelings.

March 18 - 20, 1999

The Veterinary Students at WSU hosted the SAVMA symposium which attracted ~900 Veterinary Students from across the country.  Visit a photo gallery of this historic event.

Oct. 1999

Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine establishes a program to help people grieving the loss of a pet. The Pet Loss Hotline acts as an outlet for people to share their feelings.

Aug. 2000

The Class of 2004 is formally welcomed to the Veterinary Profession during the White Coat Ceremony.

May 2001  

Professor Warwick M. Bayly is named permanent dean of Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bayly has been at WSU for more than 20 years and was named the first, four-year Robert B. McEachern Distinguished Professor in Equine Medicine in 1995. He has also served as the college's associate dean for continuing education and interim chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Aug. 2001

The Class of 2005 is formally welcomed to the Veterinary Profession during the White Coat Ceremony.

November 2001

Reseacher Discovers Cause of Ivermectin Sensitivity in Collies

Aug. 2002

The Class of 2006 is formally welcomed to the Veterinary Profession during the White Coat Ceremony.

September 2002 Camp Alpha.

As part of the orientation program for the WSU Class of 2006, students were invited to participate in a two day off-campus experience at Camp Twin Low outside of Rathdrum, Idaho. Over half of the class, in addition to several students from the Classes of 2005 and 2004, administrators, and faculty, took advantage of this opportunity to get to know each other prior to the beginning of classes.

April 2003 Dedication of the Dr. Richard Ott Small Animal Medicine and Research Center

May 2003 WSU veterinary college landmark heart surgery attracts national media attention

Aug. 2003

WSU Receives Accreditation with Honors from AAHA

Aug. 2003

Freshman Camp for Class 2007

Aug. 2003

White Coat Ceremony Class 2007

Oct. 2003 

National Institutes of Health Awards $10 Million for Research to WSU Faculty
Last Edited: Nov 26, 2014 2:08 PM   

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