Dr. D.L.T. (Larry) Smith, first dean of WCVM. U of S Archives (A-12145).

WCVM's first dean shaped college's future

When the University of Saskatchewan's Board of Governors began searching for the first dean of Western Canada's veterinary college in 1963, their list of criteria was long.

Experience in veterinary education and research was a must, but they also needed a leader, a savvy negotiator, a strategist and most importantly — a visionary.

They found their man at the Ontario Veterinary College. Dr. D.L.T. (Larry) Smith was head of OVC's Department of Pathology and Bacteriology before becoming dean of the new veterinary college on December 10, 1963. Originally from Regina, he was the son of Saskatchewan's first livestock commissioner and a 1943 OVC graduate.

One of the first veterinary academics in Canada to obtain a PhD degree, Smith was the first Canadian to be board-certified in a specialty (pathology) and was an advocate for advanced veterinary education and research.

The challenges ahead of Smith were immense. To meet the federal government's provision for capital funding, the new college had to take its first class of students by September 1965. In 18 months, Smith had to recruit faculty and staff, develop a veterinary curriculum and carve out suitable class and lab space on campus.

Meanwhile, Smith and his team were feverishly working on building plans — and then making drastic changes when the project's budget was cut. He was also responsible for negotiating support from the western provinces for the college's annual operating costs.

Smith juggled it all, and no matter how hectic life became, he didn't lose his ability to connect with everyone from students and professors to university presidents and custodians.

"[Larry] Smith brought out the best in all of us," wrote Dr. Ole Nielsen in a 1988 profile of Smith for the Canadian Veterinary Journal. Nielsen, who had been hired by Smith in 1964, became the college's second dean in 1974.

After serving two terms as dean, Smith became involved in international development projects and was co-ordinating a U of S initiative in Somalia when he died suddenly in 1983.

Smith left his mark on many aspects of veterinary medicine and education in Canada, but he is still best known for his key role in creating a veterinary college for all western Canadians. The Western College of Veterinary Medicine truly is "Larry's legacy."

Source: WCVM: The First Decade and More by Christopher H. Bigland.
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