Michael Walters, AVMA special events coordinator, retired March 19 after a 37-year career with the Association. In earlier positions as director of the Public Information and Communications divisions, Walters oversaw development of many key programs and resources that continue today or have evolved from his efforts.
AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven said, "For dedicated AVMA staff like Mike Walters, it's much more than a job. Mike has been devoted his entire career to the profession and our Association—and we are better because of his significant contributions. Professionally we will all miss Mike's contributions, and, on a personal level, we will miss just having him around."
Walters directed the Public Information Division from 1978 until 2001, when the Communications Division was created and he was named director. The new division combined in a synergistic way the activities of the Public Information Division and Marketing Department with some activities from the Education and Research Division.
While director of Public Information and then Communications, Walters increased the Association's media presence with an extensive and expanded print, audio, and video news release program. He created the AVMA's nationally syndicated radio program "Man and Animals," heard on 750 North American radio stations. He was responsible for expanding the Association's "What you should know about …" client information brochure series, adding brochures dealing with horses and livestock, and making all the brochures available in English and Spanish.
An award-winning public education video program produced under his direction included three career films: "Today's Veterinarian," "Veterinary Medicine: caring for the future," and "Dedicated to Service." The "Day in the life of …" series was initiated, focusing on veterinarians working in small and large animal medicine, public health, zoo medicine, and other areas. The client education film "A Horse of Her Own" was awarded a CINE Golden Eagle and a medal at the New York Film Festival.
While he directed Communications, most of the AVMA's press materials and recordings were shifted to the online Press Room, increasing accessibility and saving substantial cost.
One of Walters' most rewarding accomplishments was working with the Auxiliary to the AVMA to develop the popular National Pet Week promotion. He said, "It was an interesting program that involved a lot of state associations, schools, and individual veterinary practices and linked them with the Auxiliary. For a while, it was unique to the AVMA and veterinary medicine. Originally, pet week was the AVMA's participation in the American Humane Association's Be Kind to Animals Week."
Walters worked with the Business Division and convention manager to streamline the convention Opening Session and awards ceremony and to attract nationally recognized speakers. He helped the Executive Division and executive vice president restructure the Association Management Seminar and the semiannual meetings of allied association presidents and presidents-elect and combined them into the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference.
The AVMA's veterinary medical exhibit, which opened in 1976 at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, was also his creation.
In 2004 Walters became director of special events and in 2007, special events coordinator. Working under the direction of the assistant director of the Convention and Meeting Planning Division, he assisted with in-house meetings and other convention- and meeting-related duties.
Walters joined the staff as public information assistant in 1972, when the AVMA still rented offices in Chicago. Previous positions were as an information assistant and analyst for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, assistant trade show producer for Teleprompter Corporation, and editor and publisher of Review—a quarterly magazine of the arts. He was also in theater management and publicity with Balaban & Katz and Paramount Theaters. A Chicago native, Walters received his bachelor's from DePaul University with a major concentration in political science/philosophy.