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Jack O. Walther

Dr. Walther
Dr. Jack O. Walther

Dr. Jack O. Walther, who as AVMA president was instrumental in revitalizing AVMA communications and strengthening the Association’s support for state VMAs in the legislative and regulatory arenas, died Nov. 29, 2017. He was 78.

Born April 18, 1939, the fourth-generation Nevadan was raised on a ranch in southern Reno. At the age of 6, Dr. Walther decided he wanted to be a horse doctor just like Dr. George Bamberger, who treated his lame mare, Pinto, for several years.

After graduating from the Univer­sity of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1963, Dr. Walther started an equine practice in Reno. He was drafted in 1965 and spent two years in the Army Veterinary Corps stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Along with caring for military service dogs, Dr. Walther worked with primates used for the U.S. space program that sent the first man to the moon.

Following his discharge from the Army, Dr. Walther switched to companion animal medicine and over the next 35 years established three small animal hospitals in the Reno area.

During this period, Dr. Walther was highly active in organized veterinary medicine. He was elected president of the Nevada VMA in 1973 and the following year chaired the committee responsible for reviewing state legislation concerning veterinary medicine. Additionally, Dr. Walther served as chairman of the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for 10 years and in 1983 was named Nevada’s Veterinarian of the Year.

In 1991, Dr. Walther began what would become a 10-year stint as Nevada’s delegate in the AVMA House of Delegates. He left the HOD in 2001 when delegates elected him AVMA vice president. Halfway into the yearlong term, Dr. Walther made the unexpected decision to become a candidate for AVMA president. Delegates again handed him a victory, making Dr. Walther the first AVMA vice president elected president in more than a century.

As the 140th president of the AVMA, Dr. Walther oversaw the AVMA’s return to the Pan-American Association of Veterinary Sciences 20 years after the AVMA left the organization. He testified before a Senate subcommittee about the need for greater federal support of state surveillance programs monitoring for chronic wasting disease that threatened deer and elk populations.

Dr. Walther also lobbied the AVMA Board of Directors to form a task force to identify ways of improving communications with members and the public. The task force, which Dr. Walther chaired, recommended several reforms, including creating staff positions for a governmental relations communications manager and media outreach manager. The Communications Division budget was increased by nearly $300,000, with most of the new funds earmarked for advocacy and outreach in state legislative and regulatory affairs.

At the same time as Dr. Walther was head of the AVMA, he was president of the Western Veterinary Conference. During this period, the AVMA and the WVC collaborated on building the Oquendo Center, a state-of-the-art veterinary training facility in Las Vegas designed for clinical, practical, and knowledge-based learning and testing protocols.

In 2002, Dr. Walther initiated a scholarship to bring students from each veterinary school in the U.S. and Canada to the WVC annual conference. When he retired from the WVC in 2013, the scholarship program was renamed the Dr. Jack Walther Leadership Award. Such were his contributions to the WVC that the 2013 conference was named in his honor.

Over the years, Dr. Walther received many accolades, including the Distinguished Service and Alumni Achievement awards from UC-Davis in 2005 and 2013, respectively, and the AVMA President’s Award in 2010.

Of his many achievements, Dr. Walther was especially proud of the people he mentored over the course of his career, according to longtime friend Dr. James Peddie. "Jack encouraged aspiring students, many of whom he employed, to become either veterinarians or RVTs," Dr. Peddie said.

"Attending his funeral were many of those who felt his influence and are success stories as valued members of our professional team," he said, "many of whom have, by virtue of his inspiration and encouragement, become leaders within our profession."

Dr. William B. Wright was a college freshman when he met Dr. Walther in 1973. His influence, Dr. Wright said, led him to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. "I think Jack’s main qualities were his mentoring of students and young veterinarians, and his tremendous talent for putting together teams of the right people to carry out his visions. He had a way of tapping into talents people didn’t even know they had. He was without peer as a leader," said Dr. Wright, a director on the WVC board.

In addition to his commitment to veterinary medicine, Dr. Walther was an engaged member of his community. He served as president of the Reno Rodeo, which named him the Man of the Decade in 1990; chairman of the Washoe County Airport Authority; chairman of the Reno/Tahoe Air Services Task Force; board member of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority; and chairman of the National Championship Reno Air Races, which gave him the Man of the Year award in 2001.

Dr. Walther is survived by his children, Kathlena "Kathi," John "J.D.," and James, as well as five grandchildren; his brother, Steve; and his beloved black Labrador Retriever, Tule.

His family would appreciate memorial contributions to UC-Davis Health, for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Innovation Fund, with checks made payable to UC-Davis Foundation and mailed to Health Sciences Development, 4900 Broadway, Suite 1830, Sacramento, CA 95820, or to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (, or the LASSO program of the Elko Animal Shelter (surgery center), P.O. Box 1333, Elko, NV 89803.

AVMA member

AVMA honor roll member


Douglas J. Ayers

Dr. Ayers (Pennsylvania ’90), 56, Shavertown, Pennsylvania, died Sept. 12, 2017. A small animal veterinarian, he was the founder of Plains Animal Hospital and Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital in Plains, Pennsylvania.

An avid conservationist and environmentalist, Dr. Ayers helped establish the North Branch Land Trust, serving as chairman of the board for several years, and co-established a coalition of multiple conservation groups aiming to preserve the areas surrounding state game lands.

He also co-established the state chapter of the Republicans for Environmental Protection and founded and served as chairman of The Lands at Hillside Farms, a nonprofit regional educational center and historic farm estate in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Ayers served on the Luzerne County Flood Authority for several years. His fiancee, Julie Schneggenburger, and his two sisters survive him.

Memorials may be made to The Lands at Hillside Farms, 65 Hillside Road, Shavertown, PA 18708; Trucksville United Methodist Church, 40 Knob Hill Road, Shavertown, PA 18708; or The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Donor Services, P.O. Box 98018, Washington, DC 20090.

John A. Brodahl

Dr. Brodahl (Colorado State ’76), 67, West Point, Nebraska, died July 25, 2017. Following graduation, he worked a year in Neligh, Nebraska. Dr. Brodahl then established a mixed animal practice in West Point.

He is survived by his wife, Jeanette; three daughters and three sons; five grandchildren; and his mother.

Memorials may be made to Holt International Adoption Services, 250 Country Club Road, Eugene, OR 97401, or Open Door Mission, 2828 N. 23rd St. E., Omaha, NE 68110.

Dale E. Inman

Dr. Inman (Texas ’75), 65, Chil­dress, Texas, died Sept. 7, 2017. He owned a large animal practice in Childress. Dr. Inman began his career at Deyhle Veterinary Hospital in Clarendon, Texas. He then worked briefly at Wisdom Animal Clinic in Texarcana, Texas, before establishing a practice in Borger, Texas, in 1976. In 1988, Dr. Inman moved to Childress, where he farmed and raised Black Angus cattle, establishing his large animal practice in 1989.

He is survived by his wife, Lileesa; a daughter and two sons; nine grandchildren; and two brothers. Memorials, toward the class of 1975, may be made to Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, College Station, TX 77843.

Robert J. Neitzke

Dr. Neitzke (Minnesota ’84), 62, Mound, Minnesota, died June 2, 2017. He owned an equine practice in Minnetrista, Minnesota. Following graduation, Dr. Neitzke worked in Lakeville, Minnesota. He then moved to the Wisconsin Dells, where he established a practice, remaining there for four years before moving to Minnetrista. Dr. Neitzke’s wife, Annemarie; three daughters; a grandchild; and three brothers and a sister survive him.

Russell J. Patterson

Dr. Patterson (California-Davis ’67), 85, Kelseyville, California, died June 16, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Carmen; a son and a daughter; three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a brother and a sister.

Robert L. Pyle

Dr. Pyle (Pennsylvania ’65), 77, Blacksburg, Virginia, died Sept. 16, 2017. A charter diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, he was professor emeritus of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine since 2007.

Following graduation, Dr. Pyle joined the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine as an assistant instructor of cardiology. He subsequently served as an instructor and assistant professor and earned his master’s in cardiology at the university before moving to the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences in 1975, as an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences.

From 1978-1981, Dr. Pyle was an associate professor at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1981, he was named professor of agricultural and urban practice at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and director of the veterinary college’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. From 1986 until retirement in 2007, Dr. Pyle was a professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinic Sciences. During his tenure at the veterinary college, he served as coordinator of medical services; coordinator of ambulatory health services; associate dean for public services; associate dean for development, facilities, and information systems; and associate dean for operations and information systems. Dr. Pyle also worked part time as a clinician at various practices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, taking a sabbatical from academia in 1974 to work a year at Brandywine Veterinary Hospital in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. In retirement, he provided veterinary cardiology services, including small animal case evaluations, continuing education, and telemedicine.

Dr. Pyle was a member of the ACVIM Board of Regents from 1977-1994, serving as secretary-treasurer from 1981-1993 and as executive director from 1993-1994. He was also instrumental in establishing the ACVIM forum. Dr. Pyle was a past chair of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties and a past secretary-treasurer of the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians. A member of the Virginia VMA, he served on several of its committees. Dr. Pyle was also a member of the Mississippi and Southwest Virginia VMAs, and a fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. He received several honors, including three teaching awards while at the Virginia-Maryland veterinary college and the ACVIM Distinguished Service Award in 2006.

Dr. Pyle’s wife, Inge; three sons; two grandchildren; and two sisters survive him. Memorials may be made to the Roanoke Rescue Mission, 402 4th St. SE., Roanoke, VA 24013, or Blacksburg United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 931, Blacksburg, VA 24063.

Jerry H. Rudnick

Dr. Rudnick (Araneta ’83), 64, Boca Raton, Florida, died July 21, 2017. Following graduation from De La Salle Araneta University in Malabon, the Philippines, he joined Millpond Equine Clinic in Coconut Creek, Florida, as a partner. In 2002, Dr. Rudnick took ownership of the practice, which by then also had a satellite location in Delray Beach, Florida. He was a member of the Florida VMA.

Dr. Rudnick is survived by his wife, Michele; three sons and a daughter; three grandchildren; and a sister. His daughter, Meredith, is a first-year veterinary student at the University of Florida.

Orville R. Walls

Dr. Walls (Tuskegee ’69), 76, Philadelphia, died Sept. 6, 2017. In 1976, he founded Greene Street Animal Clinic in Philadelphia, where he initially practiced mixed animal medicine, focusing later on small animals. Earlier, Dr. Walls worked at Philadelphia’s Bustleton Avenue Animal Hospital, O’Neal Animal Hospital, Chelwayne Animal Hospital, and Morris Animal Refuge. He was also active with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the 4-H Club. Dr. Walls’ wife, Yvette; and two sons and a daughter survive him. Memorials, with checks designated in the name of Dr. Orville R. Walls, may be made to Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, Donor Services, 100 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.


For an obituary to be published, JAVMA must be notified within six months of the date of death via a toll-free phone call to 800-248-2862, ext. 6754; email to newsatavma [dot] org (news[at]avma[dot]org); or fax to 847-925-9329.