College of Veterinary Medicine faculty, staff and students gathered on a warm May afternoon to pay tribute to two retiring faculty members, Wendell Cole, DVM, DACP, and Ronald Terra, DVM, MBA, MS. The compliments and expressions of gratitude directed to the men for their work in shaping the college were accompanied by some good-natured ribbing.
Dean Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD, presented Dr. Cole with the Dean’s Pioneer Group award, which is given to members of the original faculty.
“He was always calm while facing the challenges in education, and always put his colleagues at ease,” Dean Nelson said.
Dr. Terra, who arrived in 2006, was given the first Dean’s Trailblazer award. Dean Nelson said Dr. Terra is nicknamed “coach,” because it describes his approach to mentoring students. Dr. Terra played football in high school and college, and then coached both high school and college teams.
The ceremony included a posthumous presentation of the Dean’s Pioneer Award to the late professor Tom Phillips, who died in October, 2017.
“Dr. Phillips was a visionary veterinarian and researcher, a beloved teacher, and friend,” the dean said.
Dr. Cole and Dr. Terra reflected on their years at CVM with Veterinary Outlook magazine.
Professor of theriogenology since 2004, the director for Year 3, and for the last three years, the associate dean for academic affairs.
“I was studying zoology at the University of New Hampshire and hadn’t given much thought as to what I was going to do with my degree,” Dr. Cole said. “In my junior year, I started working at the university dairy. That piqued my interest in veterinary medicine.
“After earning a DVM at The Ohio State University, I went into private practice for four years, mostly seeing dairy cattle and horses. I found reproduction fascinating, so I did a two-year residency in theriogenology at the University of Missouri, Columbia.”
Dr. Cole conducted research into bovine somatotropin, a growth hormone, and provided technical service support to a corporate California sales force, when he heard that a new veterinary college opening in Southern California needed a veterinarian to teach large- and food-animal medicine.
“I was interested in the problem-based approach to learning, and the distributive model, with students out in actual clinical practices,” he said. “I was here for only two months when I told my wife I intended to retire from here, I liked it so much.
“WesternU has given me a whole new appreciation for the struggles students go through, not only with the huge student loan financial burden, but also the fluctuation in job opportunities. However, there are now a lot of specialties that didn’t exist when I graduated, such as shelter medicine.”
Dr. Cole plans to continue working part time conducting welfare audits on dairy farms for Validus, a company headquartered in Urbandale, Iowa, and doing volunteer work. He said he will miss working with the agricultural program at Mt. San Antonio College, a community college located only a few miles away from WesternU. For the past several years, he has assisted with the equine breeding program.
“It’s a lot of fun, and rewarding to see the newborn foals,” Dr. Cole said.
Professor of food animal medicine, Year 3 Practice Management course leader, and most recently, director of the Year 4 program.
“I grew up in a small Central Valley, California town,” Dr. Terra said. “My grandfather and two of my uncles had dairy farms nearby. Between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, I went up to help my Uncle Leonard paint some buildings. I also helped putting up hay and milking the cows, and my uncle said, ‘say, you are pretty good at this.’ I stayed the entire summer.
“I started out wanting to be a doctor, but I also wanted to be around cows.”
After earning a DVM from the University of California, Davis, he joined Lander Veterinary Clinic in Turlock, not far from his family home. Dr. Terra said 95 percent of the clinic’s business were dairy cows.
In 2005, Lander agreed to be a rotation site for WesternU’s new veterinary college’s third-year students.“I went down to talk to the students about what is involved, and what to expect,” he said. “I sat in a problem-based learning class, and thought it was a good way to deliver the curriculum to students, and to make them lifelong learners.”
When a food-animal faculty position opened, Dr. Terra applied.
“A few months later, my son Kevin called us out of the blue and said he was applying to go to vet school at WesternU.
I said, ‘that’s interesting, I am being considered for a faculty position there.’ We both started at CVM in 2006, a month apart. My son graduated in 2010.”
Now, that son has a practice in the Redding area of Northern California. Their daughter, Becky, is teaching at a nearby community college, and son Dave lives in the Bay Area. Dr. Terra and his wife are retiring to Redding to be closer to all three, as well as their four granddaughters.
Transitioning from his roles as a veterinarian and football coach to teacher made him realize that the best way to help students learn a complicated process is to break it down into small parts and tackle it one step at a time.
Dr. Terra also is known for singing and reciting song lyrics in class.
“Some point will come up with a student, and I’ll say, ‘that reminds me of a song,’” he said. His favorite songs are those meant to inspire students to keep challenging themselves, and to never give up.
“Set goals, and climb mountains,” Dr. Terra said.