January 01, 2013


 One of a kind

​Evans, Cornell emeritus professor, is last honorary AVMA member

Posted Dec. 13, 2012

Howard E. Evans is not a veterinarian. He was educated as a zoologist and earned a doctoral degree in comparative anatomy. But after two decades of teaching at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and co-authoring the first edition of “Miller’s Anatomy of the Dog,” Dr. Evans was elected an honorary AVMA member in 1970.

Dr. Evans is now 90 and the last of a select group of mostly nonveterinarians whose contributions to veterinary science were notable enough they earned the right to count themselves as members of the AVMA.

Howard E. Evans, PhD
(Courtesy of Cornell University​)

Honorary AVMA membership is as old as the organization itself. The category is outlined in the original constitution adopted in 1863 by the fledgling U.S. Veterinary Medical Association. Honorary members are entitled to all the privileges of AVMA membership with the exceptions of voting or holding office.

Any AVMA member could nominate a person for honorary membership, which had to be approved by a majority of the Association. These encomiums were initially awarded three times a year and later reduced to two.

Eventually, AVMA leaders had a change of heart regarding how best to honor notable nonveterinarians. In 1974, the House of Delegates voted for an Executive Board proposal deleting from the AVMA Bylaws the section on honorary membership; instead, the AVMA would award plaques of appreciation.

When Dr. Evans received his doctorate in 1950, he was hired as an assistant professor at Cornell’s veterinary college. For the next 36 years, he taught the anatomy of the dog, horse, cow, fish, and bird to thousands of veterinary students, including three future deans of the veterinary college, before retiring in 1986.

Dr. George C. Poppensiek, dean of the veterinary college from 1959-1974, recommended Dr. Evans be granted honorary membership in the AVMA. On June 22, 1970, the House of Delegates approved Dr. Evans’ nomination. “I thought it was very nice, because it recognized I was devoting my total energies to the veterinary college. I appreciated that very much,” he said.

Dr. Evans’ research interests included fetal development of Beagles, cyclopia in sheep, and the replacement of teeth in fish. He and his wife, Erica, took scores of Cornell alumni on tours of Antarctica, South Africa, Kenya, and New Guinea.

Looking back over an esteemed career, Dr. Evans is especially proud of his work on “Miller’s Anatomy of the Dog.” He co-authored the first and second editions of the book, was sole author of the third edition, and revised the current fourth edition. Additionally, Dr. Evans co-wrote “Guide to the Dissection of the Dog,” now in its seventh edition.

Nearly three decades after his retirement, Dr. Evans can’t keep out of the classroom. Most days, the professor emeritus can be found on the Cornell campus, where he teaches a course for veterinary students on the literature and materials of natural history and occasionally provides a guest lecture.

“I like the vet students so much,” Dr. Evans said. “Now, the children and even some of the grandchildren of my former students are going through school. I think that’s what keeps me going back. Vet students are just a really interesting bunch.”