Donald Smith, veterinary college dean emeritus, dies

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Claudia Wheatley
Donald Smith
Donald F. Smith

Donald F. Smith, DVM, the Austin O. Hooey Dean Emeritus of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), died Oct. 29 following a serious illness. He was 66 years old.

Smith was the ninth dean of the college, serving from 1997 to 2007. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, he was considered a foremost authority on bovine surgery. His research on metabolic alkalosis in ruminants was instrumental in advancing the field of metabolic diseases of cattle.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing,” said Dean Lorin Warnick, citing Smith’s “many accomplishments as a clinician, faculty member and leader in the college. I am personally grateful for the support and encouragement Don gave me since I was hired as a faculty member, and especially recently while I was serving as interim dean.”

As head of CVM, Smith oversaw completion of 40,000 square feet of additional clinical instruction and research space at the college, as well as a substantial addition to the James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health. Under his leadership the Cornell University Hospital for Animals expanded specialty services and caseload, and the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory became a nationally recognized regional center for bio-security related to animals and public health. Smith led CVM through a reorganization in which academic departments were consolidated and renamed to reflect contemporary science and medicine. He also guided the development of a major comparative cancer program.

Steve Ettinger ’62, DVM ’64, described Smith as “a very warm and engaging individual. He had a tremendous number of interests,” including the practice and history of veterinary medicine and helping students advance in their studies and in their careers. “He loved the college and the work he did there,” said Ettinger.

Smith earned his DVM with distinction at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in 1974 and completed an internship and residency in large animal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He first came to Cornell in 1977 as an assistant professor of surgery. He left for an associate professorship in large animal surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, returning to Cornell in 1987 as chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences. He also served as associate dean for veterinary education and associate dean for academic programs prior to becoming dean of the college.

“As a faculty surgeon Dr. Smith had uncanny abilities, especially when treating individual dairy cattle with surgical diseases,” said Susan Fubini, professor of large animal surgery and associate dean for academic affairs. “His command of the anatomy was extraordinary. Every time I operated with him I learned something new. He mentored many young faculty and residents, championed the role of women in the profession, and encouraged leadership opportunities for female students, staff and faculty.”

In the past year Smith co-authored a book, “Leaders of the Pack: Women and the Future of Veterinary Medicine and Pathways to Progress,”a history of American veterinary colleges and schools.

Calling hours are Friday, Nov. 4, from 4 to 8 p.m. There will be a service of Christian worship and remembrance Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. Both will be held at Christ Chapel, 160 Graham Road, Ithaca. Those wishing to make memorial donations in Smith’s name are asked to consider the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, the Stroke Center at Cayuga Medical Center, or Christ Chapel in Ithaca, New York.

Claudia Wheatley is senior public affairs officer at the College of Veterinary Medicine.


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