The college of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University was founded in 1899 beginning with a single $60 shed. It is the fifth oldest veterinary college in the United States and sixth oldest among the veterinary colleges in the U.S. and Canada. From these modest beginnings, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine has developed into a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art complex serving the entire Pacific Northwest.

Fun Through the Ages: The Life and Times of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine by Ghery D. Pettit, DVM Professor Emeritus, Veterinary Surgery (1926-2009). Speech presented in 1999  to the WSU Retired Faculty Association. Read it here.

A Centennial History: The first hundred years of the College has been consolidated into a book commemorating the milestone. Read it here.

Milestones in the History of Veterinary Medicine in Washington

Veterinary Medicine History

1853 - 1889
Washington territorial days—there is no regulated control of veterinary medicine.

Washington is granted statehood.

On March 28, House Bill No. 90 is signed into law creating the State Agricultural College and School of Science located at Pullman.

The Board of Regents creates the position of Chair of Veterinary Science.

The State Agricultural College, Experiment Station and School of Science located in Pullman opens its doors to students. The original Land Grant legislation (Morrill Act) specifies that one of the major subjects to be taught is, "veterinary art." Charles E. Munn, a veterinarian, is among the first six faculty members.

Munn leaves in the wake of political turmoil. The position of Chair of Veterinary Science is abolished.

The Washington Legislature creates the office of State Veterinarian specifying that they also be the Professor of Veterinary Science at the college and a member of the State Board of Health. Sofus Bertelson Nelson, a native of Denmark, an Iowa State College graduate, and Spokane practitioner, is appointed to the post by the Board of Regents. Veterinary activities begin immediately at the college. The original curriculum is not a professional program but is a series of courses intended to supplement agriculture courses or provide preliminary training for students wishing to transfer to another school to complete veterinary degrees. Tuition and room fees are free for Washington residents.

The Board of Regents authorizes President Enoch A. Bryan to have a, "shed constructed at the south end of the armory for the veterinary department, the cost not to exceed $60.00."

The "School of Veterinary Science" is made a major division of the college admitting its first class of three students. This date is considered to be the official birth of today's College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University.

1902 Four year degree program introduced

In 1902, two of the original three students comprised the first graduating class, Drs. Charles S. Philips and John W. Woods. 

A four-year curriculum leading to a B.S. is introduced alongside the three-year curriculum. The curricula are conducted simultaneously until 1917 when the three-year program is abolished. Also this year, Wyatt E. Ralston, an Ohio State graduate, is added to the faculty as, "house surgeon." His salary is $900 per year.

The first annual Vet-Pharmic football game is played. The event becomes a major campus attraction until 1957 when the advent of modern protective gear and concerns for student safety saw the contest fade away. The Pharmics are said to have won only three to four games over the years. For a time basketball games take the place of the football game but they lack the same appeal and they too, disappear in the 1960s. The annual football game is followed each year by the Hobo Dance. For the dance, male students and faculty grow their beards out in honor of the vagrant namesake of the dance. Dancing, drink, and merriment often flow into the following morning. It too, is done away with in 1957 after a particularly raucous occasion also raises concerns for student safety.

March 11, the first state Veterinary Practice Act is signed into law granting the governor the power to appoint an examining board composed of three graduate veterinarians, one to be the state veterinarian. All graduate veterinarians in the state are required to show proof of graduation by July 1. Non-graduate veterinarians who've practiced in the state for not less than two years are grandfathered in. Interestingly, graduates of human medical schools can become licensed veterinarians in Washington simply by showing proof of graduation.

A new three story, brick veterinary science building is erected on the Pullman campus. A two-story brick building is constructed at 225 Indiana Avenue in Spokane and established as a satellite teaching hospital.

The first official meeting of veterinarians in the state of Washington for the purpose of forming an association takes place in Seattle. J. Hilton is elected the first president of the new Washington State Veterinary Medical Association.

1910 physiology laboratory

Dean Nelson recommends a schedule of fees to the Board of Regents: "For the hospital at Pullman, 60 cents per day for feed and care. For floating horses teeth, 50 cents. All other treatment in the hospital, free." The first dog ambulance is purchased for $300.

Washington's legislature creates the state's Department of Agriculture. Harry T. Graves (WSU '10) a veterinarian is named Acting Commissioner of Agriculture.

Two cars of cattle enroute from Wisconsin to Roy, Wash. arrive in Spokane. Animal health officials have previously been warned that the animals had been exposed to foot-and-mouth disease in a St. Paul, Minn. stockyard. Quick action on the part of veterinarians, state agricultural officials, and a cooperative owner, stops a potential outbreak before it can happen. The positive diagnosis was made on Nov. 16 and by Nov. 21 all the cattle had been destroyed and cremated and all temporary holding pens, litter, etc. had been burned.

The first Tri-State or Pacific Northwest Meeting of veterinarians is held in Bellingham. As a region, the meetings continue until 1955 when Washington withdraws to concentrate on in-state efforts.


The School of Veterinary Science becomes the College of Veterinary Science, complete with deanship.

The first continuing education program for veterinarians is held in Pullman. It is sponsored by the college and assisted by the fledgling state association and northwest veterinarians.

Nelson resigns as Dean of Veterinary Science to assume the post of Director of Agricultural Extension. In 18 years of service, records show he personally examined 149,182 animals. Cost of the services rendered is $45,000 total.

1920's Veterinary Ambulance

The college's first African-American student, Winfred A. Jordan, graduates. Jordan is a transfer student from the soon-to-close San Francisco Veterinary College.

The Department of Licenses is created. Emerson Anton Ehmer (WSU '18) establishes the first small animal hospital in Seattle. He goes on to a distinguished career in the development and advancement of veterinary orthopedics. Today his original hospital is known as the Seattle Emergency Hospital.

The Spokane hospital is closed and all teaching is transferred back to Pullman.

Ehmer reports the first successful treatment of a femoral head fracture in a dog utilizing a plaster cast encircling the pelvis.

The College of Veterinary Science becomes the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The first roads are pushed into Ilwaco, Washington. Prior to this, all transportation to the area was by boat, hindering veterinary care among the coastal farms.

Skagit County becomes the first county in Washington to begin a bovine tuberculosis eradication program.

Washington appropriates extra funds to begin tuberculosis testing King County's 40,000 head of cattle. At the first testing, over 8,000 head are identified as positive reactors. Herds of up to 150 head are often found 100 percent reactive. It will take until 1988 before Washington is declared TB free.

1930's Elephant assisted delivery

Myron Thom (WSU '29) begins pioneering radiology as a science and therapeutic modality in veterinary medicine.

AVMA accreditation of veterinary colleges begins. WSC's College of Veterinary Medicine is immediately accredited and has maintained uninterrupted accreditation ever since.

Washington State College graduates its first female veterinarian, Catherine Elizabeth Roberts. She goes on to be the first licensed female veterinarian in California and is among only 12 in the nation at the time.

Washington begins a statewide brucellosis eradication program. It will not be until 1988 that the state is declared brucellosis free.

The curriculum is increased from four to five years with one year outside the college.


The State Department of Agriculture and the State Board of Health initiate the first ever meat inspection regulations in Washington. C. L. Norris is appointed to head up the service by Marvin Hales, supervisor of Dairy and Livestock. Also this year, the five year veterinary curriculum at WSC is discontinued. Freshman enrollment is limited to 40 students.

Dean Wegner spends six months touring Europe examining veterinary facilities for ideas to be used in expanding the college's facilities.

Washington's bovine brucellosis program is changed from a "cattle reduction" program to a "disease eradication" program. This signals a major shift in thinking in herd health management.

Following a series of discussions between J. E. Schillinger, superintendent of disease control for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dean E. E. Wegner of the College of Veterinary Medicine at WSC, a cooperative agreement is signed whereby the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey and the college embark on research work into the diseases of fur bearing animals. Frank McKenney is the first veterinarian employed to start the work. The strong and productive relationship now under the administration of the USDA continues today.

1943 McCoy and Wegner halls complete

Ehmer begins working with the Kirschner Manufacturing Company of Vashon, Washington to develop the Kirschner-Ehmer half-pin splint. The device and modifications are used by more veterinarians than any other form of external skeletal fixation.

Only Virginia leads Washington among all 50 states in brucellosis eradication. It has been a monumental veterinary effort recognized nationwide and especially in Washington due to its rugged geography and harsh winter weather. Also, faculty member E. C. McCulloch publishes, Disinfection and Sterilization. It is the first book ever written by an active member of the WSC College of Veterinary Medicine faculty.

The Washington State Veterinary Medical Association is incorporated. Federal authorities request that eligible veterinary students apply for commission as 1st Lieutenants in the Medical Administration Corps so that they can continue their education without interruption by their local draft boards. And, what will become McCoy Hall in 1952 is completed in September.

the majority of veterinary students resign their commissions in the Medical Administration Corps to join the Enlisted Reserve Corps and are assigned duty in the Army Specialized Training Program, also known as the notorious ASTP.

The ASTP is broken up. Juniors are discharged in the summer and the new senior class moves into the Sigma Phi Epsilon house and Ferry Hall. Following discharge from ASTP, most apply for ranking as a 1st Lieutenant in the Veterinary Corps. Eventually most are commissioned and see active duty, some even into the Korean War.


The first Borden Award is given in the college marking the beginning of annual awards programs. Today the event, held each spring, awards over $110,000 to WSU veterinary students.

Fur bearing animal research at WSC is placed under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry. Later it will change again to the Animal Disease and Parasite Research Branch of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA.

The first graduate degree ever awarded by the college is earned by one of its alumni. John Gorham (WSU '46) earns his Masters of Science Degree in pathology under D. R. Cordy. Later the pair go on to discover a rickettsia that is the cause of salmon disease in dogs and foxes.

The first Junior Review is presented to the veterinary faculty and students. It is a lighthearted series of skits and musical presentations which lampoon the authority figures connected with veterinary education in Washington.

1953 Leptospirosis Barn complete

The South Puget Sound Veterinary Medical Association is started. Puyallup's William F. Harris (WSU '43) is elected the first president.

The recently completed animal clinic and classroom-laboratory buildings are named after  J. E. McCoy and E. E. Wegner, respectively. Both separately served as dean of the college  during their careers.

Radiology facilities at WSC are expanded into a new room measuring 37 by 23 feet. The main x-ray room is 23 by 21 feet and a laboratory lecture room fills out the remainder. Modern, powerful equipment is installed including a GE Maximar 250 III with medical x-ray head, mounted on an electrically operated jib crane. A diagnostic unit manufactured by Standard X-ray Co. is mounted from the ceiling. Upon completion, the WSC veterinary x-ray facility is the best in the country and perhaps the world. Also this year, the leptospirosis barn capable of housing 50 animals is completed.

Under the direction of George Stabenfeldt (WSC '55, '56, & '62), the junior class of veterinary students enters the annual campus songfest. The presentation of an original score, "Dystocia," is enough to win and marks the beginning of a tradition of dominance of the event.

Distinguished veterinary pathologists, H. A. Smith and T. C. Jones (WSU '34) publish the first edition of their landmark text,Veterinary Pathology.

1961 McCoy Hall $1.6M renovations

D. C. Blood and J. A. Henderson published the first edition of Veterinary Medicine. The book goes on to become the authoritative text on large animal medicine for a generation of veterinary students. Henderson was dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine from 1963 to 1973.

The Equine Disease Laboratory is completed located on Airport Road on the eastern fringe of campus.

A five-person Education Committee is appointed by the WSVMA. It marks the first direct administrative role the group plays in continuing education and curriculum development at WSU.

The old mink farm is demolished and new facilities are occupied on Airport Road.

1975-1996 Robbie the Clydesdale

Over 5,140 pets are vaccinated against rabies in the South Puget Sound Veterinary Medical Association Rabies Clinic Program.

A two-story addition is built on McCoy Hall. The space is used primarily for faculty offices and research.The WSVMA establishes the Foundation for Veterinary Medical Research, Inc. as a separate corporation.

The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) is officially created with new funds from the legislature and existing resources. Today, it is a fully accredited facility and one of only a handful integrated with veterinary schools nationwide.

The Arthur H. Caine Veterinary Medical Center is dedicated in Caldwell, Idaho. The center serves as the WOI program as the primary focus in production medicine education for WSU WOI veterinary students.

A modern veterinary science building is completed and dedicated on the WSU campus. Also, this is the year hog cholera is officially declared eliminated from Washington.

In 1979, The Washington-Oregon-Idaho Regional Program in Veterinary Medical Education is formed after over seven years of discussion and preliminary agreements. Known as WOI, the program also serves Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming students through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) compact.

1980 Hitchcock Track Dedicated

The Hitchcock Research Track is dedicated on the WSU campus. It is the only horseracing facility of its type built for research purposes on a university campus in the U.S.

For the first time in the college's history, more female than male students apply and are admitted into the DVM program. The trend continues today with female enrollment representing about 60 percent of all veterinary students. Also this year, a major $12 million remodeling of Wegner Hall is completed.

A $3 million multi-purpose animal holding and care facility is completed adjoining existing animal care facilities in the Bustad Veterinary Science Building.

The veterinary science building is officially named for dean emeritus, Leo K. Bustad.

The Mickelsen Lounge was dedicated to honor U.S. Army Captain Clayton Mickelson (’39 DVM). He was awarded the Army’s second highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his bravery during World War II. He was eventually captured, and taken to a Japanese war camp in Kyushu, Japan. He died on February 10, 1945 in a hospital in Moji just two weeks before the camp was liberated by U.S. forces.


WSU introduced the first elective alternative laboratory course on basic surgical techniques which uses cadavers of animals euthanized for humane reasons to avoid use of surplus animals for than purpose.

Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility

September 29, the Caring Call statue is dedicated to the WSU campus. It is the only bronze statue in the country depicting a human administering medical care to an animal. The piece also represents the combined fundraising abilities of WSU alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends.
The American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care grants WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine full accreditation on the college's first attempt. WSU is one of only a few such veterinary schools with full AAALAC accreditation in North America.

Governor Booth Gardner signs a state budget allocating nearly $30 million in funds for construction of a new veterinary teaching hospital at WSU. Also, the federal government provides nearly $1.2 million for detailed planning of an animal disease biotechnology facility to be built near the new hospital. The total federal building project exceeds $21.3 million.

The Center for the Study of Animal Well-Being at Washington State University is a cooperative effort between the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. Its goal is to produce and distribute the best possible information on what factors of animal care and use controlled by humans are truly in the animals' best interest. The approximately $3 million privately funded center is approved by the University Senate.

Groundbreaking took place for the Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility (ADBF). The Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility (ADBF) houses offices for the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and research laboratories. The facility, which opened in 1999, is unique among all USDA buildings and facilities projects because its focus is on the use of molecular biology to resolve diseases in agricultural animals with application where appropriate to human health. Program goals include ensuring a safe and abundant human food supply; improving the health and well-being of food animals produced in the US; and providing research training for the next generations of scientists.

In 1996, the new 110,000 square foot Veterinary Teaching Hospital is opened. This $38M facility is a major site of teaching, research and animal care activities in the college.

The Center for Reproductive Biology is established, an interdepartmental program involving 12 departments and 5 colleges at WSU.

The CL Davis Foundation for the Advancement of Veterinary and Comparative Pathology honor Dr. John Gorham, Dr. Thomas Jones, class of 1935 and Dr. Floris M. Garner, Class of 1950, former chairman of veterinary pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C. by naming them Legends in Veterinary Pathology.
Microbiologist Katherine O'Rourke, immunologist Timothy Baszler, large animal clinician Steven Parish, class of 1973 and USDA Animal Disease Research Unit Leader Donald Knowles announce the first practical preclinical test for scrapie in sheep.

The College of Veterinary Medicine establishes a program to help people grieving the loss of a pet, the Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility (ADBF) opens and the Class of 2003 is formally welcomed to the veterinary profession during the first White Coat Ceremony.

The Veterinary College publishes a Centennial History Book. We are the fifth oldest veterinary college in the United States with a rich history captured in this new book," said Interim Dean Terry McElwain. It’s truly amazing to realize that this multi-million dollar, internationally recognized college began with a single state appropriation of $60 to build a lean-to shed.

WSU celebrated the first 100 years of the college’s existence. In March of that year, WSU veterinary students hosted the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) symposium. Over 900 veterinary students attended from across the country.

2008 Raptor Center Opens

Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine establishes a program to help people grieving.

Professor Warwick M. Bayly is named permanent dean of Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bayly has been at WSU for more than 20 years and was named the first, four-year Robert B. McEachern Distinguished Professor in Equine Medicine in 1995. He has also served as the college's associate dean for continuing education and interim chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Reseacher Discovers Cause of Ivermectin Sensitivity in Collies.

In September of 2002, as part of the orientation program, now known as Cougar Orientation Leadership Experience (COLE), for the WSU Class of 2006, students were invited to participate in a two day, off-campus experience in order to get to know one another prior to the beginning of classes.

Dedication of the Dr. Richard Ott Small Animal Medicine and Research Center. WSU veterinary college landmark heart surgery attracts national media attention. WSU Receives Accreditation with Honors from AAHA. National Institutes of Health Awards $10 Million for Research to WSU Faculty.

The Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE), which began at WSU in 2004, is a global leadership education program for veterinary students, faculty and allied professionals.  Originally developed from the Cougar Orientation and Leadership Experience (COLE) curriculum, the VLE emphasizes personal leadership and teamwork. Participants have come from as far away as China, Sweden, and South Africa. To expand its reach, VLE was moved from WSU in 2012 and is now led by VLE alumni.

2013 Veterinary Medical Research Building opens

The School of Molecular Biosciences (SMB), established in 1999, offers programs in biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, and microbiology. In 2010, SMB and the Center for Reproductive Biology (CRB) joined the college to create a larger group of biomedical research scientists and scientific resources. SMB is housed in the state-of-the-art Biotechnology–Life Sciences building, which has exceptional laboratory facilities for scientists and students to conduct research and enhance learning.

The Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health is committed to developing innovative strategies for the treatment and control of diseases that directly affect public health, economic development, and human opportunity. Dedicated in 2012, the Paul G. Allen Center for Global Animal Health is a 62,000-square-foot, three-story flagship research building that houses a state-of-the-art infectious disease research center for investigating emerging diseases throughout the world.

The Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience (IPN) faculty teach anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and neuroscience courses. IPN is housed in the state-of-the-art Veterinary and Biomedical Research Building completed in 2013. The building provides 77,250 square feet of state-of-the-art space for the health science teaching and research programs. Adjoining the Biotechnology–Life Sciences building, the two buildings create one of the best concentrations of biomedical laboratory facilities on the WSU campus.

Washington State University