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Florence Kimball
Helen Goldhaft Wernicoff
Interlude, 1910-1936

Marie Koenig Olson
Patricia O'Connor Halloran
Interlude, 1938-1939

Helen Borchmann Doremus
Sylvia Burg Salk
Interlude, 1940s

Catherine Fabricant
Helena Haight

Marie Koenig Olson, 1937

Like Johanna Asmus, Marie Koenig was the daughter of a faculty member. Her father, Fred F. Koenig, received his DVM from Cornell in 1909 and served as an ambulatory clinician until 1918. Professor Koenig was a popular teacher and a dynamic community leader. Koenig's wife, a friend and campaigner for Eleanor Roosevelt, was equally engaging, and politics were always an active topic of discussion at their dinner table.

After the end of the First World War, the perceived value of the horse declined precipitously. Dr. Koenig, whose practice at Cornell had been largely equine, moved his family to Jamestown, New York, and established Koenig's Dog and Cat Hospital.

Marie was born in Ithaca in 1913 and received both her undergraduate and professional education at Cornell. With her graduation she became the eleventh female veterinarian in the United States. According to her son James, who is also a Cornell-trained veterinarian, Marie was a dynamic person of unlimited energy. She was first employed at Webber Brothers Dog and Cat Hospital in Rochester, then joined her father's Jamestown practice. In addition to building her mixed-practice clientele, she also performed regulatory tuberculosis and brucellosis testing for New York State.

Dr. Koenig met her future husband, Raymond "Fred" Olson, while treating his English setter for canine distemper. According to family lore, the dog pulled through, and owner and veterinarian became a couple. After they married, Fred went off to World War II while Marie stayed behind to care for a newborn daughter and tend the business. After the war, the Olsons decided that Raymond should go to veterinary college to enable the family business to expand. In 1948, he began coursework at Jamestown Community College, from which he continued to Alfred University. He matriculated at Cornell in the Class of 1957.

During that period Dr. Olson shouldered the entire responsibility for her family, tending to two children and to her father, who had congestive heart failure, while fighting her own battle with Parkinson's disease, running the practice, doing state regulatory work, and putting her husband through college. Her son testifies that this was a monumental burden, but one that she accepted without complaint, as it was "just expected".

Some of the practice ideals that Marie Olson instituted are worth mentioning: v-trough restraint methods, the use of IV fluids, isolation wards with separate air flows, and a passion for continuing education. She also established protocols before her time for treating liver and inflammatory bowel disease.

After her husband graduated as the "old guy" of the Class of 1957, the Olsons built a modern small-animal veterinary hospital. The clinic incorporated new thinking with skylights in every part of the building, radiant hot-water-heated floors, the first computer cash register in the area, a modern surgery suite with prep and treatment areas, a well equipped laboratory with an early Coulter counter, avian anesthesia equipment, and epoxy-painted walls for easy clean-up.

Dr. Olson was also a community leader and activist. Along with such people as Amelia Earhart, she was a charter member of Zonta International, an organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women worldwide. But when the National Organization for Women approached her for leadership support, she said, "Why would I ever want to join an organization of wannabees when I have it all . To join NOW would be a step down!"

Marie Koenig Olson was a "ra-ra-ra" Cornellian who raised her children to recognize the value of a great education. Her children were given free access to anything scientific, practical, or mechanical. She encouraged her daughter to go to Cornell, where she received a baccalaureate and two master's degrees. Her son James, a member of the veterinary college's Class of 1973, is now a feline specialist in Colorado. In November 1970, while her son was in the midst of his second-year veterinary examinations, Dr. Olson succumbed to a stroke at the end of a day spent working in the career she had always loved.

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Marie Koenig Olson

College Archives
Cornell University
College of Veterinary Medicine