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VMRCVM dedicates Watson room

By Jeff Douglas

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 18 - January 25, 1996

In a ceremony that featured colorful memories and many old friends, 39 guests recently gathered to officially dedicate the Douglas F. (Duke) Watson Heritage Room on the Blacksburg campus.

Named in honor of a man who served on the faculty of Virginia Tech for 23 years and was a major figure in the history of Virginia agriculture and veterinary medicine, the room contains a variety of portraits, plaques, and memorabilia that help tell the story of the college's founding.

Opening the ceremony, Dean Peter Eyre reminded guests that the dedication ceremony coincided with the College's 15th birthday,

"We must always look to the future," he said, standing before a gallery of about 35 portraits featuring Virginia Tech Veterinary Science department heads from 1891 on and about 30 VMRCVM administrators. "But it is important once in a while to the look to the past and think about where we've been."

Early in the ceremony, a portrait of Seymour Kalison, who served as project leader for veterinary Extension at Virginia Tech from 1954-1978, was unveiled and installed. "There is a certain part of him that is right here," said his son Mike Kalison, one of four family members who attended the event.

Eyre then lauded Watson as a man who was "mentor to a generation of pre-veterinary students" at Virginia Tech and unveiled a proclamation passed by Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors that formally named the College's new heritage room the Douglas B. (Duke) Watson Heritage Room.

Jim Shuler, owner of Companion Animal Clinic and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, studied with Watson as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech. During his remarks, he described the dedication as "an important occasion within the life of veterinary medicine" and praised Watson as a man who "took the time to teach us something about life" in addition to their pre-veterinary medical studies.

John Wise, an equine practitioner who is president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, said Watson taught him more about "foot rot and black leg" than he thought there was to know. Comparing Watson to football coaches like Vince Lombardi, he said Watson always helped people achieve more than they thought they could, and was "always interested in what you were doing."

Watson, who was joined by four family members for the event, received an extra surprise when Arthur Bartenslager, a classmate from Cornell's Class of 1937, traveled with Wise from the Shenandoah Valley to attend the event.

After earning his VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1937, Watson's 41-year career included service around the world. He retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel after distinguished service in the Military Veterinary Corps during World War II and then served as superintendent for almost a decade of a 1.25-million-acre Peruvian ranching operation that included 225,000 sheep, 17,000 cattle, 1,500 horses and mules, 12,000 hogs, and 7,500 goats.

Upon returning to the United States, he served on Virginia Tech's faculty from 1955 until 1978 as an associate professor of animal pathology in the Biology Department and then as a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

He served as head of the Department of Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from 1959 until 1974 and was active in the Virginia and American Veterinary Medical Associations.

Watson lives in Blacksburg.