Published on August 15, 2009
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AVMA Honor Roll Member
AVMA Member

Nathan R. Brewer

Dr. Brewer (MSU '37), 104, Potomac, Md., died June 15, 2009. Considered by some the father of laboratory animal medicine and science, Dr. Brewer was one of the first veterinarians hired by a university to oversee the care of animals used in their research programs. An advocate for laboratory animal welfare since the 1940s, he taught and promoted humane care and its crucial role in ensuring valid biomedical research.

He studied veterinary medicine for two years at Michigan State College before moving to the University of Chicago and earning his doctorate in physiology. He returned to Michigan State and earned his DVM degree. The war years were spent in private practice in California. Then in 1945, the University of Chicago hired Dr. Brewer to manage its laboratory animal facilities, one of the first such full-time positions for veterinarians. He was also an associate professor of physiology.

Dr. Brewer co-founded the Animal Care Panel, which became the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and was editor of its journal for 12 years.

As the public became more aware of laboratory animal welfare issues, institutions sought ways to improve their treatment. The National Institutes of Health and others adopted ideas and concepts pioneered by Dr. Brewer, such as reducing animal suffering by pretesting procedures before implementing them.

The standards and accreditation criteria for laboratory animal facilities that Dr. Brewer developed later in his career provided the basis for the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care. He also co-founded the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and was a retired ACLAM diplomate.

Dr. Brewer was instrumental in developing the contemporary gorilla diet. While at the University of Chicago, he consulted for the Lincoln Park Zoo and cared for its famous resident Bushman. When the gorilla died short of a full lifespan, Dr. Brewer performed the necropsy and found his diet to be at fault. Zoo staff had been unknowingly rinsing away nutrients and vitamins from bugs that were part of gorillas' natural diet.

Retiring from the university in 1969, Dr. Brewer pursued comparative physiology and laboratory animal management consulting for 21 years. Even after that, his work continued through library activities, lectures, and writing.

The AVMA conferred its 2001 Animal Welfare Award on Dr. Brewer. Michigan State honored him as a Distinguished Veterinary Alumnus in 1997. AALAS presented its inaugural Nathan R. Brewer Scientific Achievement Award to its namesake in 1995. The Charles River Foundation gave the Charles River Prize to him in 1992 for his distinguished contributions to the field of laboratory animal medicine. And in 1960 the Animal Care Panel awarded him the Charles A. Griffin Award.

Dr. Brewer is survived by his wife, Jean, and three daughters. Memorials may be made to the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Development, F-130 Veterinary Medical Center, East Lansing, MI 48824.

Vitt P. Ferrucci

Dr. Ferrucci (WSU '44), 90, Puyallup, Wash., died June 1, 2009. Prior to retirement in 1991, he owned a small animal practice in Puyallup. Dr. Ferrucci served on the Washington State University Board of Regents from 1980-1986. In 1984, the Washington State VMA named him Veterinarian of the Year. Active in civic life, Dr. Ferrucci was a 38-year member and past chair of the Puyallup School Board. He was also a longtime member of the Puyallup Kiwanis Club and was active with the Puyallup Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Ferrucci's son and two daughters survive him.

James E. Fitzgerald

Dr. Fitzgerald (IL '55), 78, Garland, Texas, died March 27, 2009. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, he retired as director of comparative toxicology at Warner Lambert, formerly Parke-Davis and Company. Early in his career, Dr. Fitzgerald worked for the University of Illinois and a pharmaceutical company in Indiana. He joined Parke-Davis and Company's research laboratories in Ann Arbor, Mich., as a research veterinary pathologist in 1964.

Dr. Fitzgerald was a veteran of the Air Force. He is survived by two daughters and a son.

Kenneth W. Fortson

Dr. Fortson (GA '76), 57, Social Circle, Ga., died Jan. 7, 2009. He practiced mixed animal medicine in Social Circle for more than 20 years. Dr. Fortson was a member of the Georgia VMA. His wife, Kyle; two sons; and two daughters survive him. Memorials may be made toward the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine Memorial Fund for Ken Fortson (with checks payable to Arch Foundation), c/o Kathy Bangle, UGA-CVM, Athens, GA 30602; or Helping Hands Christian Ministry, 1102A Highway 11 N., Social Circle, GA 30602.

Virgil L. Holdeman

Dr. Holdeman (MSU '51), 85, Highland, Ill., died May 13, 2009. Prior to retirement, he served as veterinarian at the National Stockyards in East St. Louis, Ill., for 14 years. From 1951-1969, Dr. Holdeman practiced large animal medicine in Hebron, Ill. During his career, he also bred, trained, and raced Standardbred horses.

Dr. Holdeman was a life member of the Illinois State VMA. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II in the South Pacific. Dr. Holdeman was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Highland Rotary Club. He is survived by his wife, Mary; two daughters; and two sons.

James L. Lybyer

Dr. Lybyer (TEX '73), 58, Mountain Grove, Mo., died June 6, 2009. He practiced at West Plains Veterinary Clinic in West Plains, Mo. Following graduation, Dr. Lybyer joined the Air Force and served as staff veterinarian in Blytheville, Ark. From 1975-1979, he practiced at Tri-County Veterinary Service in Mountain Grove. Dr. Lybyer then owned a practice in Mountain Grove for 18 years.

A member of the Missouri VMA, he was a past president of the Missouri Family Rodeo Association, American Family Rodeo Association, and Mountain Grove Saddle Club. Active in civic life, Dr. Lybyer served as president of the Manes School Board for eight years and was a board member of the Missouri Special Olympics and Executive Advisory Council for the Boy Scouts of America.

His wife, Nancy, and five daughters survive him. Memorials may be made to the Dr. J.L. Lybyer Memorial Scholarship Fund, Community First National Bank, P.O. Box 570, Mountain Grove, MO 65711.

Ross K. McPhail

Dr. McPhail (KSU '52), 84, Republic, Mo., died June 7, 2009. Prior to retirement in 1988, he practiced large animal medicine for 36 years, focusing on farmers across the area southwest of Springfield, Mo. A past president of the Southwest Missouri VMA, Dr. McPhail was a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the Missouri VMA, serving on the MVMA Executive Board for eight years.

Active in civic life, he was a past president of the Republic School Board and served on the Republic City Council. Dr. McPhail was a veteran of the Army. His wife, Patricia, and three sons survive him. Memorials toward community outreach programs may be made to The Kitchen Inc., 1630 N. Jefferson, Springfield, MO 65803; or Crosslines, 1710 E. Chestnut Expressway, Springfield, MO 65802.

Clarence A. Nelms

Dr. Nelms (COL '52), 84, Gothenburg, Neb., died March 21, 2009. He practiced in Gothenburg for 27 years. Dr. Nelms also farmed and raised Black Angus cows since 1960. He was a member of the Nebraska VMA, Dawson County 4-H Club, and Tri Trails Boy Scouts Council. A Navy veteran of World War II, Dr. Nelms was also a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. In 2002, he was inducted into the Dawson County Cattlemen Hall of Fame. Dr. Nelms is survived by his wife, Mary; three sons; and a daughter.

Jules Silver

Dr. Silver (UP '47), 86, Boca Raton, Fla., died May 18, 2009. He was the founder and chief executive officer of Mastikure Inc. and Silver Industries in Norwich, Conn., manufacturing pharmaceuticals and drug delivery systems. Dr. Silver was a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Philadelphia. In 1992, the Veterinary Medical Society of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine presented him with an Alumni Award of Merit. Dr. Silver's wife, Lucy; a daughter; and a son survive him. Memorials may be sent to Best Friends Animal Society,

Erwin Small

Dr. Small (IL '57), 84, Savoy, Ill., died July 1, 2009. Dr. Small was professor emeritus at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and former associate dean for alumni and public affairs. A member of the faculty from 1958-1992, he was devoted to the college and to organized veterinary medicine.

An icon of the veterinary college, Dr. Small was a mentor to many colleagues and students. As a faculty adviser he influenced students to join the UI student chapter of the AVMA and to continue being active in organized veterinary medicine after graduation.

His positions at UI included professor of veterinary clinical medicine, and assistant head and director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He also directed the Veterinary Small Animal Medicine Section.

Dr. Small was a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Specialty of Small Animal Internal Medicine.

In 2001 Dr. Small was honored for his work with the 7th War Dog Platoon of the Marine Corps. At the start of World War II, he had enlisted in the Marines and was assigned to the platoon. He and his dog served combat duty on Iwo Jima. Discharged in 1946, he was recalled in 1950 to serve in the Korean War. Dr. Small was a lifetime member of the 4th Marine Division, and his name is engraved on the War Dog Memorial in Quantico, Va.

The AVMA Award, the Association's highest honor, was presented to Dr. Small in 1998 for his contributions to the advancement of veterinary medical organizations. His leadership included terms as president of the Illinois State VMA, American College of Veterinary Dermatology, ACVIM Specialty of Small Animal Internal Medicine, American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology, Academy of Veterinary Allergy, and American Association of Veterinary Clinicians. For many years Dr. Small served as executive secretary of the Society of International Veterinary Symposia.

His honors were numerous. Among them were the Illinois Veterinarian of the Year Award in 1973 from the ISVMA; the AVMA President's Award; the American Animal Hospital Association Award and AAHA distinguished life membership; a state proclamation of Erwin Small Day, Oct. 2, 1992; the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award; service awards from the ACVIM, Chicago VMA, and UI College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Association; and several outstanding educator awards.

Memorials may be made to one of three funds at UI: the Dr. Erwin Small Veterinary Student and Alumni Activities Fund, the Dr. Erwin Small Scholarship Endowment Fund, or the new Dr. Small/DermaPet Challenge Fund. Donations can be made online at For more information, call the college's Office of Advancement at (217) 333-2761 or e-mail advancementatvetmed [dot] illinois [dot] edu.

John B. Watkins

Dr. Watkins (ISU '51), 83, Minot, N.D., died May 31, 2009. Prior to retirement in 1998, he served seven years as veterinarian for the Minot Park District. Dr. Watkins began his career practicing in Grafton, N.D. He then worked in Grand Forks, N.D., for three years. In 1955, Dr. Watkins joined Minot Veterinary Clinic, subsequently becoming a partner at the practice. From 1981-1991, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Watkins was a past president of the North Dakota VMA and served as its delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates from 1972-1974. He served in the Army during World War II, earning two Purple Hearts, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with two bronze battle stars, and the World War II Victory Medal with three overseas service bars. Dr. Watkins was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Minot Rotary Club. He is survived by his wife, Fern; a son; and a daughter. Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 1000 Third St. N.E., Minot, ND 58703; or Roosevelt Park Zoo, 1219 Burdick Expressway E., P.O. Box 549, Minot, ND 58702.


Memorial contributions to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation are gratefully accepted. When making such contributions, please indicate the name and address of the individual who should receive notification of your donation. Contact: AVMF, Department 20-1122, P.O. Box 5940, Carol Stream, IL 60197-5940


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