October 15, 2010


 A lasting legacy from humble beginnings

Michigan State celebrates 100 years 

Posted Oct. 1, 2010 

Given its 100-year history, Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has plenty of achievements to celebrate. The college lays claim to the first open-heart surgery on a dog, has pioneered orthopedic surgical techniques, and developed the first vaccine for Marek's disease.

Yet, it seems many of its 6,000-plus alumni prefer instead to reminisce about more lighthearted events during their time in East Lansing.  


A steer is restrained as it receives an injection from a
member of Michigan State's veterinary faculty.

Take, for instance, Dr. James B. Dalley, a faculty member from 1959-1999. On the "I Remember" page of the college's website dedicated to the centennial, Dr. Dalley recalled that when he attended the veterinary college, the entire program was housed in Giltner Hall, including the clinics, basic sciences departments, and diagnostic and necropsy laboratories.

"The old auditorium was just south of Giltner. That's where the old large-animal clinic was. When they were talking to the MSU administration about raising money and support for the new veterinary buildings, John Hannah, then MSU president, said, 'Well, I would sure like to get the vet clinic away from the auditorium,'" Dr. Dalley wrote. "The reason is that they didn't have a manure disposal system at the time, so daily, open wagons of manure were hauled out of there and went right past the auditorium."

A more comprehensive and formal telling of the college's history comes from the late Dr. Charles C. Morrill, a former professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Pathology. His 1979 book "Veterinary Medicine in Michigan: An Illustrated History" chronicles much of the history of the early days of veterinary medicine in the state, drawing on original artifacts and archives. The college is featuring his work prominently this year as it looks back on the evolution of the institution.

In 1910, the Veterinary Division was established at Michigan Agricultural College, now Michigan State. However, the college's history actually dates back to 1849, when state legislators wanted to establish a formal state agricultural group. That led to the formation of the Michigan State Agricultural Society the same year. Then, in the early 1850s, the University of Michigan established an agricultural department.

The society wanted a separate agricultural school on designated acreage near Lansing—and in 1855, the State Agricultural College that is known today as Michigan State University was born.

According to Dr. Morrill's book, "veterinary art" was to be included in the curriculum. Just two courses in the four-year agricultural curriculum addressed this: a course in animal physiology and a course simply labeled "veterinary."

Not until 1883 did the college hire a professor of veterinary science. Dr. Edward A.A. Grange from Ontario Agricultural College was the first veterinarian to serve as a full-time faculty member. He also took on a number of other duties, including state veterinarian and president of the Michigan VMA, Dr. Morrill wrote.

Two years later the "veterinary laboratory," a three-story brick building, was completed; in 1902 came what is now called Marshall Hall, which housed the newly formed Department of Bacteriology—the first building in the United States designed for teaching this subject, according to Dr. Morrill. 

A patient checks into Michigan State University's
Veterinary Teaching Hospital in this photo from April 1955.

It wasn't until 1907 that the State Board of Agriculture authorized a Veterinary Division—or a college—which became a reality in 1910.

Now the college is celebrating its 100 years by folding a centennial focus into regularly scheduled activities such as its annual open house, awards banquet, commencement, and Phi Zeta Research Day.

An all-college picnic honoring the 100th year took place Aug. 20, though a larger, more formal reception is planned during the Michigan Veterinary Conference, Jan. 28-30, 2011, serving as a capstone for the CVM's year of celebration.

In addition, the Centennial Scholars Fund was created to recognize the year and help relieve some of its current students' debt. The college has invited every living alumnus to give $100 for each year since their graduation.

The college even started a competition among classes to see which one can give the most. According to the CVM Class Competition Web page, the Class of 1992 is in the lead with $32,553 donated as of mid-September. In all, nearly $100,000 has been raised so far.