Veterinary Science at MSU: a long-held commitment

In our effort to figure out what building we uncovered last week, we ended up researching the history of veterinary science at MSU. We quickly found that the building found to the southwest of Ag Hall was the fist vet lab, but we became interested in the bigger picture. CAP wanted to know exactly what role that building played in the developing history of MSU.

Veterinary Science has been a key element in MSU’s curriculum since the university’s inception. In 1855 the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was established. By 1864, the State Board of Agriculture recommended a professor of veterinary science be added to the faculty. The minutes noted a growing need to cure different diseases in livestock, such as pleuro-pneumonia, because methods of the time, like blood-letting, were failing (Morrill 1979:57).  In 1883 Dr. Edward A.A. Grange became the first full-time faculty veterinarian. The 1883 meeting minutes of the State Board of Agriculture note the Dr. Grange was to give the course of lectures in veterinary science. Furthermore, the 1883 meeting minutes demonstrate the college’s commitment to developing veterinary science by stating that a one-year veterinary course be incorporated into the curriculum, as well as a commitment, notably by Dr. Grange and President Abbot, to organize a Department of Veterinary Science. Dr. Grange was a professor here until 1897.

Dr. Charles Titkemeyer teaching large animal anatomy-1948, courtesy MSU Archives
Dr. Charles Titkemeyer teaching large animal anatomy-1948, courtesy MSU Archives

As our last blog MSU’s First Veterinary Laboratory explained the first building devoted to veterinary science was built on campus in 1885. The Vet Lab was the only veterinary science building until 1914, when the Veterinary Surgery and Clinics building was constructed. This building would have several renovations and additions, and would come to be known as Giltner Hall.

Surgery and Clinics Building. courtesy MSU Archives
Surgery and Clinics Building. courtesy MSU Archives

True to the founding values of the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, students of veterinary science were required to work in addition to completing their studies. The following is an interesting description of such work:

“Large animals had to be prepared in the clinic room on the first floor and hoisted to the second floor by a small, insecure, hand operated elevator. The floor in the dissecting room had to be bedded with several inches of sawdust to absorb formaldehyde and body fluids. It was easy to get parts of the dissected animals down, but the parts, together with the blood from bled-out animals, had to be hauled by wheelbarrow to the Bacteriology Building [sic. which was the top floor of the Vet Lab] and burned at night. For all this, students received 15 cents per hour.” [Reference 22: Runnels, R.A> “Michigan Veterinary History,” MSU Veterinarian 18 (1958): 188-209]

At the turn of the 20th century, veterinary science at MSU experienced a great step forward. In 1907, the Michigan State Legislature authorized the State Board of Agriculture to establish a veterinary college and by 1910 the Veterinary Division was organized. MSU became the first veterinary college east of the Mississippi River to have a four year required curriculum and eighth to be established at a land grant institution.

Dr. E.S. Weisner demonstrates poultry necropsy-1935, courtesy MSU Archives
Dr. E.S. Weisner demonstrates poultry necropsy-1935, courtesy MSU Archives

The Division of Veterinary Science was reorganized as the Division of Veterinary Medicine in 1923, with Dr. Ward Giltner becoming dean. This was an important time for the development of veterinary science at our young university, then known as Michigan Agricultural College. Dean Giltner led the division through challenging times, such as low enrollment of the 1920s and modification of the veterinary education program to cope with the war effort of the Second World War.

An addition to the veterinary clinic and hospital was completed between 1940-1942, which provided more animal quarters and an autopsy room, as well as facilities for the department of Physiology and Pharmacology on the second and third floors and the Central Brucella Station, devoted to researching a serious bacterial infection. This addition would become part of present-day Giltner Hall. Between 1943 and 1944 the Division of Veterinary Medicine was renamed the School of Veterinary Medicine. From here the history and distinguished program of veterinary science at Michigan State University would continue.

Author: Erica Dziedzic


1979 Morrill, Charles Cleon. Veterinary Medicine in Michigan: An Illustrated History. College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University: East Lansing.

Photo of Vet Building (caption): 1885-1886; Veterinary Building; “removed because in the way of the new road in front of the Ag Bldg. Torn down.”
“Veterinary Laboratory”
Photo info: MSU/1008; Acc #ua345

“History of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State” Retrieved May 15, 2014, from

State Board of Agriculture Meeting Minutes, 1883. On the Banks of the Red Cedar. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from 1883.pdf

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