Dr. Walter E. Collins: 'Father of veterinary technology'

Published on March 13, 2019
Dr. Collins
Dr. Walter E. Collins graduated in 1961 from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He would go on to be a key creator of the veterinary technician curriculum. (Courtesy of John Cheney)

Dr. Walter E. Collins (Cornell '61), a key creator of the veterinary technician curriculum, died Jan. 19. He was 88 years old.

Early in his veterinary career, Dr. Collins worked in Cooperstown, New York, for a local veterinarian before starting his own practice in Delhi, New York. He began to transition into academia in 1964. Dr. Collins was later appointed the program director of the first animal health technician program at State University of New York at Delhi. He received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to spearhead the creation of a curriculum to train technicians. Dr. Collins was the author and co-author of many vital educational guides for the profession.

"He was a friend and mentor to all his students," said Alan Franks, a professor of veterinary technology at SUNY-Delhi and a former student of Dr. Collins at Delhi in the 1970s. "He inspired us to do our best and, as graduates, to become outstanding representatives of the program and ambassadors for the veterinary technician profession."

During his more than 30 years as an educator and veterinarian, Dr. Collins served as program director of Mountain View College in Dallas and associate professor and coordinator of the veterinary technology program at Michigan State University, where he retired in 1995. He played host to the 1981 Association of Veterinary Technician Educators symposium at MSU, which led to the formation of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. The AVMA House of Delegates approved the use of the title veterinary technician instead of animal health technician in 1989.

"The field of veterinary technology owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Collins for all he has done to promote and advance our chosen profession," said Erin Spencer, NAVTA president and a certified veterinary technician. "It can easily be said that Dr. Collins accomplished more on behalf of the veterinary technician profession than any other individual. As early as the 1970s, Dr. Collins was advocating for veterinary technicians to be utilized to their fullest capacity, a sentiment that continues today."

In 2011, Dr. Collins was formally recognized by SUNY-Delhi for his efforts and granted the moniker "father of veterinary technology in the U.S." during the program's 50th anniversary celebration.

"With his passing, Dr. Collins' legacy is every veterinary technician who has ever graduated from a veterinary technician program in the U.S. He was truly the father of veterinary technology, and he is the godfather of every veterinary technician," Franks said.

Dr. Collins was a former president and lifetime member of the AVTE; he was on the National Veterinary Technician Testing Committee, which was charged with developing the Veterinary Technician National Exam; and he served on the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, among others.

Dr. Collins is survived by his wife, Beverly; two sons and a daughter; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and two brothers and two stepsisters. Memorials may be made to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, 1931 N. Meacham Rd. Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173, with checks made payable to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and "Dr. Walter E. Collins" in the memo line.

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