Total Pageviews

Friday, October 15, 2010

They Cared Enough to Give Their Name

Students at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine sometimes wonder why we call Lecture Suite I the Murray Room. Or why is there a Flower in the library?

It’s simple, really, and goes to the core of the blending of State tax dollars and private philanthropy in the making of Cornell. Without the combination of the two forms of support, year after year, our facilities would be Spartan.

Walking around the building, students and guests of the college see names in strategic places: ‘Greenberg’ on the M.R.I. suite, ‘Belinski’ on the teaching laboratory, ‘Turrell’ on the linear accelerator cancer facility, and so on.

Amazingly, the practice started just three years after the college was established. As the story goes, our first dean, James Law, was giving ex-Governor Roswell Flower a riding tour of Cornell’s campus in 1897 when the horse pulling their carriage balked in front of the new veterinary college building. The gentlemen used the pause to visit the young college.

Seeing the lack of teaching resources available to the students and faculty, the governor wrote a personal cheque on the spot for $5,000 to assist Professor Law in purchasing books for the small library. A few years later, the Flower family contributed an additional $10,000 to create a permanent endowment, and the room was named the Roswell P. Flower Veterinary Library.

Almost a century later, during the 55th reunion of Dr. Isidor Sprecker, Class of 1939, the then spacious library was renamed to recognize the gift made by Dr. and Mrs. Sprecker. A student during the Depression, Dr. Sprecker recalled the modest one-room library that he and his classmates had available for their use. “I always wanted to do whatever he could to help expand the library”, he told me during one of his occasional visits back to campus.

In the teaching laboratory of the pathology wing of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is a plaque dedicated to the generosity of Dr. Kenneth Gumaer, Class of 1943. As a practitioner and later, a corporate veterinarian, Dr. Gumaer’s passion for pathology began during his veterinary college days under the tutelage of the epic pathologist, Professor Peter Olafson. This instruction was invaluable during Dr. Gumaer’s service during World War II as he cared for over 300 mules during the perilous China-Burma-India campaign.

Dr. John D. Murray, Cornell DVM Class of 1939
One of the two lecture suites in the Veterinary Education Center was named in 1993 for Dr. John D. Murray, Class of 1939.  He was not just a loyal benefactor of Cornell and a former instructor in large animal surgery, but also past president of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. Still a frequent visitor to the college despite living 50 miles away, Dr. Murray is best known to recent graduates as the man who until a couple of years ago attended the Honors Banquet during their Commencement week. In his remarks to the graduates, he encouraged them to follow his example and give back to the college “after they earned their first million, which you most certainly will do”. After the admonition, he closed with his recitation (flawlessly, from memory) of the side-splitting story of Petey, the Snake.

Petey was a little snake—about so big—that lived in a pit with his mother. And one day Petey was hissing in the pit when his mother said, “Petey don’t hiss in the pit, go outside the pit and hiss”. So Petey went outside the pit to hiss. He was hissing all around, and suddenly leaned over and hissed in the pit. So his mother said, “Petey if you must hiss in the pit, don’t hiss in our pit, go over to Mrs. Pots and hiss in her pit”. So Petey went over to Mrs. Pots to hiss in her pit, but Mrs. Pots was not at home, so Petey hissed in her pit anyway. While Petey was hissing in Mrs. Pots’ pit, Mrs. Pots came home and saw Petey hissing in her pit, and said, “Petey, if you must hiss in the pit, don’t hiss in my pit, go to your own pit and hiss”. Well, this made Petey very sad, and he cried all the way home, and when his mother saw him crying, she said, “Petey, what on earth is the matter?” “Well I went over to Mrs. Pots to hiss in her pit, but Mrs. Pots was not at home so I hissed in her pit anyway. And while I was hissing in Mrs. Pot’s pit, Mrs. Pots came home and saw me hissing in her pit, and says, ‘Petey if you must hiss in the pit don’t hiss in my pit, go to your own pit and hiss.’” Well, this made Petey’s mother very angry, and she said, “Why that mean old lady! I knew that Mrs. Pots when she did not have a pit to hiss in!”