Immediate Past Vice President, American Veterinary Medical Association
Members of the Class of 2012, spouses, families, and significant loved ones, distinguished Saint George’s University colleagues and staff, and invited guests. Good evening. As a faculty member visiting from Auburn University (and as the Immediate Past Vice President of the American Veterinary Medical Association), it gives me great pleasure to deliver this white coat address to the entering Class of 2012, Saint George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. This is truly an honor for me – more than you will ever know. Over the past 42 years (since graduating from high school), I have attended many ceremonies and numerous graduation commencements and have listened to a lot of speeches (By the way, this is my first – and probably last – white coat address). But I must honestly admit – usually after the ceremony or presentation is over, I seldom can remember what the speech is even about! I hope that this will not happen to you today; I sincerely do hope that each and every member of tonight’s audience will remember the main points of my message and will hold onto that message for many years to come (especially during your matriculation while here at SGU and while you are undergoing your clinical experiences throughout at S/CVMs throughout North America).
The main theme of my address is taken from a quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882, American author, essayist, philosopher, and poet) – Emerson’s quotation will be our first take home message for the evening – a quotation concerning life’s unknown journey. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
“What lies behind us?” “What lies behind the entering Class of 2012?”
I would like to remind the Class of 2012 to look into the past few years to remind yourselves of the great amount of time and preparation you have undertaken to get here to the veterinary program at SGU. You have taken and excelled in organic chemistry, physics, animal science, English composition, mathematics and a myriad of other required courses and electives. To get to this point in time, I am sure that you worked for some outstanding veterinarians – men and women. You have made multiple applications to schools and colleges of veterinary medicine across the United States and Canada and the Caribbean and have ended up here at Saint George’s. Many of you have flown on LIAT airlines – now that is a life journey itself. I am sure that you realize that this has been a very LONG HAUL! You have paid a dear price in time, energy, and money to begin your veterinary career – and I want you to UNDERSTAND that you WILL come to know these next 4 years at SGU’s veterinary school as the “happiest times of your life.” Believe me – you will forget whatever you think was bad or “unjust” – and you will remember and cherish ONLY what was good and fair! But more than remembering just the upcoming 4 years, I would like for you to remember our profession’s proud history – the preceding 100 years and the OUTSTANDING men and women who have preceded you and served or are serving society!
What REALLY lies behind us as members of the veterinary profession and members of the SGU veterinary family? The answer to that question is a long, proud history of veterinary medicine in the United States. Let’s go back to 1907 and see how far our profession has come over the last 100 years. [PAUSE]
“What lies behind us?” The past 100 years. Since your veterinary school was founded in 1999, you haven’t been in the business of producing veterinarians for a long period. Next year, my school, Auburn University – 2009 marks 100 years of producing veterinary graduates.
[PAUSE] Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine had its beginnings in 1907 at Auburn Polytechnic Institute under the guidance of Dr. Charles Allen Cary, our Founding Dean. In 1892, Dr. Cary was recruited from the veterinary medical program at Iowa State College to found a veterinary science DEPARTMENT here at API; HOWEVER it would not be until 1907 when Dr. Cary initiated Auburn’s veterinary medical degree program when veterinarians first came to be trained here at Auburn.
Allow me to take you back to the world of 1907 to show to you what REALLY lies behind us as veterinarians and how FAR veterinary medicine (and our nation and the world) have come.
In our founding year of 1907, the US government had a total Federal spending of 580 million dollars, unemployment was at 2.8%, a 1st class stamp cost 2 cents, bacon was 20 cents per pound, butter 33 cents per pound, sugar 5 cents per pound, and eggs 5 cents a dozen. Pasteurized milk (if you could find it) could run as high as 16 cents per quart. Five cents in 1907 had the same amount of purchasing power as $1.00 in 2005. A veterinarian’s salary (as a “milk inspector”) ranged from $1,600 to $2,000 per year, while the average worker, a man, made $12.98 per week for 59 hours of work. Excluding Auburn’s infant veterinary program, there were only 11 veterinary programs in the US honored by the AVMA – the quite familiar Cornell, Penn, Ohio State, Washington State, Iowa State and the not-so-familiar Laval University of NY state, and McKillip but also veterinary colleges in Chicago, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. Back in 1907 the costs for establishing a new veterinary college were approximately $350,000, while the yearly operating expenses (excluding faculty salaries) for that “new” school of veterinary medicine were $33,000. An entire teaching faculty of 21 veterinary professors could be hired for $42,000 (faculty salaries ranging from $1,200 to $6,000 per year). These instructors were supposed to be able to train 200 to 300 veterinary students per school. In 1907, a veterinary student’s tuition was a BARGAIN at a mere $200 per year.
There were only 8,000 automobiles traveling on a total of 10 miles of paved roads in the United States. People drove Oldsmobiles but there was nary a Toyota around – today we have plenty of Toyotas but, ALAS, no Oldsmobiles. The first of the two Roosevelts (Teddy Roosevelt) was President – the first George Bush would not even arrive into this world for another 17 years; that little baby would not become President for another 81 years. In 1907, cell phones could not be even imagined, in fact, carrier pigeons supplanted the new fangled telephone for a country doctor who resided in a quiet town in Maine. But since there were only two telephones among all of his patients, he ordered his “land line” telephone taken out and used some fifty carrier pigeons to bring the messages to him from his patients. So much for the avian predecessors of our “essential” cell phones, which by the way, did not come into existence until 1979!
Back to veterinary medicine in Alabama. In 1907, Dr. Charles Cary noted [QUOTE] “the establishment at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, of a three-year course in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, leading to the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This is the first of its kind in the South. I [believe] that it will be a success and will meet all of the requirements of the AVMA. As soon as the department ‘gets on its feet,’ the course will be extended to three or four years of nine months each. At present, we do not wish to present ‘dress parade students’ or blow a high sounding horn. But we hope to make good, and meet the competition of the good veterinary colleges.” [END QUOTE] Our charter class graduates in our (then) 2-year program of study were the 6 members of the veterinary class of 1909 – Auburn’s first veterinary alumni – Drs. Beck, Howell, Hudson, Ingram, Sparkman, and Steadham. (Although I had a great deal of assistance from the AVMA’s librarian/archivist and from the Auburn University archives, we were unable to find any archival information regarding the veterinary careers of these charter class members. However, as Auburn men, I can assure you they did accomplish GREAT THINGS throughout their lives!) We do know that there were 6 Alabama gentlemen in this charter class, but unfortunately there were no lady members of the class. It would be another 36 years before a woman veterinary alumna would complete her veterinary training at A.P.I. – Dr. Lucille Dimmerling, Class of 1943.
The pre-veterinary curriculum differed greatly from that which our Class of 2008 have just completed. To enter the veterinary curriculum of 1907, Dr. Cary stated, [QUOTE] “the person must pass in United States history, geography, English grammar, ARITHMETIC, (and) composition. Candidates for the [veterinary] degree must be 21 years old.” [END QUOTE]
With regard to buildings and equipment at A.P.I., Dr. Cary stated, [QUOTE] “ample space is given in the agricultural college building for the teaching of veterinary science. The college has a well equipped veterinary hospital in which a FREE clinic is held Saturdays, and hundreds of cases are treated annually. The diseases that have caused the most trouble in Alabama during the past year are glanders, tick-fever, blackleg, tuberculosis, swine-plague, hog-cholera, mycotic stomatitis in cattle, cow-pox, chicken-pox, and fowl-cholera.” [END QUOTE] It is interesting to note that Dr. Cary made no mention of diseases of either the dog or the cat!
Finally, as a former Vice President of the American Veterinary Medical Association, I would be remiss if I did not quote Dr. Cary’s attitudes regarding the relationship between Auburn’s first veterinary alumni and our national professional organization, the AVMA. Dr. Cary stated in 1907, [QUOTE] “All eligible veterinarians have been notified of the wonderful and profitable things that come to him who belongs to the AVMA. Some have heard, have knocked, and hope to enter.” [END QUOTE]. (By the way, new novices to veterinary medicine, I just delivered a pitch for joining the AVMA – through your Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association.)
So much for the founding of veterinary medicine at API in 1907.
This is what lies behind us – a proud, strong tradition of veterinary medicine.
“What lies before us?” I do not mean to scare you but ahead of you lies a very vigorous curriculum of approximately XXX credit hours of lectures, laboratories, electives, clinics, externships and preceptorships. For Emerson’s second question, I wish that I possessed a CRYSTAL BALL that would tell each and every one of you about your future joys and celebrations, as well as the sadness, perils, and frustrations that MAY lie ahead of you in veterinary medicine – but I do not have that knowledge and even if I did possess it, I probably would not/could not tell you! That is what life is all about! I can guarantee you that you are going to see many WONDERFUL things and procedures in veterinary medicine – and in LIFE as a whole (As an aside, I can tell you from my own experiences that seeing your own child being born beats the heck out of delivering a calf!)
I do caution you to understand that there are going to be a few “bumps” in the road, but as my Dad so wisely said, “You cannot have the peaks without the valleys!”
BE CAREFUL – AND BE OF GOOD CHEER!
REMEMBER TO “FEAR LESS, HOPE MORE; WHINE LESS, BREATHE MORE; TALK LESS, SAY MORE; HATE LESS, LOVE MORE; AND ALL GOOD THINGS ARE YOURS.” That is what CAN lie before you! ALL GOOD THINGS!
Back to the final question in Emerson’s quotation.
“What lies within us?” This is the most important part of Emerson’s quotation – the take home message for all of us. This question can best be answered by examining one of the first lessons we teach to all incoming Auburn freshmen – the words of the Auburn Creed, a series of beliefs penned in 1942 by Dr. George Petrie, Auburn’s first football coach, professor of history, AND Dean of the graduate school. Dr. Petrie’s words resound with good advice for what REALLY should lie within each and every one of us. If you are sleeping, you need to wake up now! You need to remember this!
THE AUBURN CREED
I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.
I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.
I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.
I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports to develop these qualities.
I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.
I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.
I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”
And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.
This Auburn Creed lies within each and every one of us – it is the first lesson that many of us learn Auburn University. The tenets of the Auburn Creed will serve you ALL well for getting through life.
“WHAT LIES WITHIN US!
Work, hard work, . . . Education . . ., Honesty and truthfulness . . ., a sound mind in a sound body . . . , a spirit that is not afraid . . ., clean sports . . ., obedience to law . . ., the human touch . . ., our Country. Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
This Auburn Creed lies within each and every one of us – it is the first lesson that many of us learn Auburn University. The tenets of the Auburn Creed will serve you ALL well for getting through this rigorous curriculum and through life.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
I would like to close this commencement address with one last quotation — a quotation by Garrison Keillor (born 1942, American author, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist and radio personality on NPR). This is the beginning of your new lives as Doctors of Veterinary Medicine.
On the chair seat of each and every member of the newly entering Class of 2012, this afternoon, Mrs. Kay Storey and I personally Scotch taped a newly minted, 2008 GOLD DOLLAR COIN!
Listen up! This is what my 84-year-old momma used to refers to as “pin money,” just enough money to save for an EMERGENCY – in case you ever need an “emergency fund” to call your old teachers and your old friends back here at Saint George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine – in case you don’t have a dollar to your name, your cell phone battery goes dead, or your carrier pigeon comes down with fowl-cholera! KEEP IN TOUCH with SAINT GEORGE”S UNIVERSITY!
And now . . .
And now, the quotation by Garrison Keillor, my commencement address’s closing quotation to serve as a beginning reflection for “the rest of your life.”
“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch!”
Thank you again for giving me this great honor of delivering today’s white coat address.
WELCOME TO OUR WONDERFUL PROFESSION, YOU BEAUTIFUL YOUNG PEOPLE!
Pearson, L, Hughes DA, Reynolds, White GR, Eichorn A. Report of the Committee on Intelligence and Education. Proceedings of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Forty-forth Annual Convention, Kansas City, MO, September 10-13, 1908.
Cary CA and Giltner W. Municipal Milk Inspection in the South. Proceedings of the American Veterinary Medical Association. pp 354-369, 1907.
Cary CA. Resident State Secretary Reports – Alabama. 207-208, 1907
Liautard A. John Smith and His Misfortunes. Proceedings of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 259 – 269, 1907.