In 1951 when Luther Wilcoxson graduated in the first class of veterinarians from Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University), attending a hooding ceremony at the same school one day was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I was concentrating on beginning my own practice in Shawnee and making a little money,” says Dr. Wilcoxson. “It had been a long road.”
Wilcoxson attended one week of college studies before he was drafted. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942. After World War II, he enrolled back in school in the spring of 1946. He now prepares to hood his grandson, Will Sims, who will be among the Class of 2007.
“I had already retired from practice before Will started his studies at OSU. He never really worked with me, unless you count the times I came to his family’s farm in Kansas and we would work cattle together and neuter a few cats,” explains Dr. Wilcoxson. “It was nice, though, to see Will do an internship at the clinic I started in Shawnee, which is now owned by Dr. Mike Steward, Class of 1979.”
According to Wilcoxson, the school has come a long way since he was there. They had similar classes like histology and anatomy but they didn’t have the advantage of the teaching hospital and much of the fine equipment they have today.
“Our emphasis was on beef and dairy cattle, hogs and poultry. Will has had hands on experience with his equine studies—we just had a horse cadaver. Specialized programs were not available like they are today, although I was able to specialize in equine medicine later on.”
According to Dr. Wilcoxson, his grandson has a strong work ethic, is quite disciplined in his studies and demands the best of himself. He has a solid mind for veterinary medicine and the sciences. Having grown up on the farm, Will also has a good practical background, which Dr. Wilcoxson believes will carry over when Will begins to practice veterinary medicine.
Will says that he likes veterinary medicine because it is both an “art” and a “science.”
“You learn skills that few other people have. You work at constantly improving those skills and when you’re in practice, you have the opportunity to serve the public with those skills. That’s the art of veterinary medicine. With the science, you gain a deeper understanding of how the natural world works and as veterinarians, you learn to use that knowledge to help identify, treat and prevent disease in animals.”
Will plans to go into mixed animal practice for a few years to experience the practical side of veterinary medicine before selecting a specialty area to pursue further.
“I would like to go back and do a Residency and/or Ph.D. in whatever area of specialization I select. Ultimately, I want to teach at a university and do research.”
“Times were different when I started my studies,” recalls Dr. Wilcoxson. “We all stuck it out and came away with a fine education that I was able to build a good career on and some of the fondest memories of my lifetime. I am extremely proud and happy to be part of the graduation and hooding ceremony. Veterinary medicine is an honorable profession and I am pleased that Will chose this career path.”
“It means the world to me to have my grandfather hood me,” smiles Will. “For so long I have admired him and his work, especially with him being in the first class of veterinarians. He graduated into a world of veterinary medicine that was much different than the one I am going into today. Treatments and techniques were different, yet we share a common thread of both being educated by the same college. When he hoods me at graduation, it will be the continuance of a legacy and tradition that I am very proud to be a part of.”
A photo of his grandfather, another veterinarian, and Will working cattle, that was taken when Will was in the 2nd grade, has been on Will’s desk throughout his years of veterinary college.
“I kept it on my desk to remind me of why I decided to go into veterinary medicine,” says Will.
And there is one more thing that will makes this commencement day extra special.
“Because grandfather’s class was the first class of veterinarians in 1951, Oklahoma A&M College did not have the traditional robes with the gray trim worn by Doctors of Veterinary Medicine,” explains Will. “The class wore Ph.D. robes, so my graduation will be the first time my grandfather has a chance to wear the true colors of veterinary medicine.”