Albert J. Koltveit 1931-2010

Published on July 18, 2010
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Dr. Albert J. Koltveit of Seattle was the 12th of only 14 AVMA editors-in-chief in a line that dates back to 1877. Dr. Koltveit died May 30 at the age of 79 following a brief illness. 

The amiable and witty editor, known for his colorful turns of phrase, served 10 years as editor-in-chief and 16 before that as an editor processing manuscripts.

Another former AVMA editor-in-chief, Dr. Arthur Freeman of Indianapolis, said, “I hired (Dr. Koltveit) as my assistant editor, and then when I became executive vice president, he succeeded me as editor-in-chief. He had a very illustrious career with AVMA.”

Dr. Koltveit received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture (dairy technology) from the University of Illinois in 1952 and then served two years in the Army. In 1958, the U of I awarded him his DVM degree. For the next six years, he was engaged in mixed animal practice in his native Pontiac, Ill., and nearby Bloomington. In 1964, Dr. Koltveit left private practice for a position as scientific writer at Norwich Pharmacal Company in Norwich, N.Y. Returning to the university, he earned his master’s in veterinary medical science for his studies on poultry parasitism. Before coming to the AVMA, he was an extension veterinarian at the U of I.

“He had good experience in private practice in dealing with clients, especially in the livestock business,” Dr. Freeman noted. That background in food animal medicine and extension gave him a broad perspective of the profession.
As a JAVMA editor from 1969-1985, Dr. Koltveit had primary responsibility for processing a rapidly growing volume of scientific reports. Manuscript submissions more than doubled from 1970-1984.

His appointment as editor-in-chief and director of the Publications Division was effective Jan. 1, 1985.
Attentiveness to readers’ desire for more practical information led Dr. Koltveit and his editors in 1993 to rearrange the table of contents to the more practical format that continues today, featuring distinct sections—News, Views, Veterinary Medicine Today, and Scientific Reports; to reorganize the scientific reports to group each species together; and to initiate seven new features, among them, the still-popular “What Is Your Neurologic Diagnosis?” and “Animal Behavior Case of the Month.”
Current Editor-in-Chief Kurt J. Matushek, whom he hired and mentored, said, “I think the thing I remember most is Dr. Koltveit’s comment that ‘the dictionary isn’t always right.’ This wasn’t meant as an indictment of dictionaries but as a reminder that the most important thing we do is provide our readers with the information they need in the clearest, most understandable way possible—regardless of what the dictionary might say. For me, that will always be his legacy.”

Dr. L. Everett Macomber, 1993 AVMA president and a friend of the late editor, said, “Al was always watchful that the published papers were of sound science.”

For several years, Dr. Koltveit served as staff consultant to the AVMA Mastitis Committee and the former Committee on Environmentology. Active in the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and American Association of Swine Veterinarians almost since their inception, he reported on many of their annual meetings in JAVMA News.
Dr. Freeman said, “He was always devoted to his work, and he had a very pleasant disposition. We had a chess game going on between the two of us for a long time. Our other bond was his marvelous sense of humor. His ancestry was Norwegian, and he could make jokes about Norwegians because he was one. We had a very fond friendship that endured even after he retired from AVMA.”
In a JAVMA interview commemorating his April 1995 retirement, Dr. Koltveit said his greatest source of pride was in having been surrounded by people who aspired to excellence and had a sense of how to mold and format the journals. His favorite feature initiated while editor-in-chief was “Reflections,” in which giants in the profession gave accounts of their careers.
Dr. Koltveit was editor-in-chief at a time when print and electronic communication technologies were emerging full force. He was especially proud of having hired the late Dr. Janis H. Audin, his eventual successor, to leverage these technologies and oversee the conversion to desktop publishing. “It was the crowning achievement of my career,” he said, shortly before his death.
Dr. Koltveit was an AVMA honor roll member and a perennial Chicago Cubs fan. After he retired to Port Ludlow, Wash., he periodically published editorials in JAVMA and his local newspaper on issues vital to him, for, as he was known to say, “I prefer to tilt my lance only at big windmills.”
Surviving Dr. Koltveit are his daughters, Berit Koltveit and Erika Maxx, both of Seattle.
Memorials may be made to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation,, and designated for the scholarship fund.