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Opening of East Campus Research Facility
Introductory remarks by
Donald F. Smith, Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine

rendering of the new ECRF building. Welcome to the official opening of the East Campus Research Facility, a consolidated laboratory animal building that is part of Cornell's New Life Science initiative. I am delighted to see such a broad representation of people here with us today.

Building openings are glorious events, for they bring together people and unite programs.

The East Campus Research Facility is a university animal care project, and is not confined just to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Though veterinarians and biomedical scientists in our college will comprise a substantial contingent of users, the collaboration that these individuals will have with other faculty on this campus and at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City will ensure that this is truly a building for all of Cornell's Life Sciences.

Today's opening brings together faculty researchers who create the academic vision, with administrators who implement the vision within the broad framework of our responsibilities in discovery, education and outreach. It also unites university leaders and faculty with supporters and advocates from public and private sectors who have invested in the project.

The vision and activism of several of our academic leaders have energized this initiative. Foremost among them are Mike Kotlikoff, Michele Bailey and Rob Gilbert. In critical and sustained ways, they have provided leadership for this project from start to finish, and have shepherded it though countless hurdles and challenges.

I also acknowledge the unwavering support of the university leadership: Presidents Hunter Rawlings, Jeff Lehman and David Skorton, Provost Biddy Martin, Vice-Provosts Kraig Adler and Steve Krezovich, and others whom Michele Bailey will mention later.

I want to take a moment to reinforce the critical interdependence of the public and private sectors in this project. The research support for our faculty is largely federally-sponsored, notably through the National Institutes of Health; whereas, the salaries for many of our faculty are supported generously by the people of State of New York. Assembly Woman Barbara Lifton is here today, and I thank her for her support, as well members of the both the Assembly and Senate of the State of New York, and the governor's office. Barbara, thank you for being with us today as you have on so many important occasions for the college. Thank you also for your critical appraisal and for your encouragement of all that we do.

I also want to recognize the support of community leaders in Ithaca and Tompkins County who have allowed this project to come to fruition.

At times like this, it is important to recognize the legacy of our past, and to consider its consequence on the present and future.

The cornerstone of modern veterinary medicine in North America was laid by our founding dean, James Law, working with a cohort of comparative medicine scholars led by his former students at the Bureau of Animal Industries in Washington; as well as a group of Law's friends and associates who were physicians and comparative health advocates at McGill, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities. These leaders advocated that modern veterinary medicine be embedded in science and that it be configured as a comparative branch of medicine, rather than as a specialized branch of agriculture.

Given the agrarian-centric pressures of the land grant system, this was truly a revolutionary notion. Thankfully, it was reinforced by the Trustees of Cornell University who, after five years of indecision, ruled decisively in 1908 in favor of veterinary college Dean James Law, that veterinary medicine should remain administratively separate from the College of Agriculture.

The Trustees supported Law despite compelling fiscal and political pressures advocating the contrary. However, along with President Schurman, they had the clarity of vision to support James Law's assertion that veterinary medicine should be more closely associated with the medicine of humans, than with agriculture. This ensured that veterinary medicine could serve both public health and biomedicine, as well as traditional animal medicine, and that the animal medicine we did pursue, would be grounded in science. With the exception of the University of Pennsylvania (which, incidentally, was influenced by Cornell thinking), we stood alone among our peer veterinary institutions in this commitment.

Many things have happened over the decades to preserve our heritage. Among them were the foresight of Dean George Poppensiek to secure state funding for the Veterinary Research Tower in the early 1970's; and Dean Ed Melby to support substantial growth in laboratory animal medicine and the biomedical sciences later in that decade.

Now, as we approach the sesquicentennial of Cornell University in 2015, we can be fully confident of our capacity to be the comparative academic medical center for Cornell University, with strengths in both veterinary and biomedical sciences; with strong ties to the physical and biological sciences at Cornell; and supported by a tri-partite facilities infrastructure consisting of our world class Cornell University Hospital for Animals opened in 1996, a new Animal Health Diagnostic Center that is now in the design phase, and, today, the inauguration of a marvelous facility for housing experimental animals, including provisions for level 2 and 3 biosecurity.

I close with a reference from one of my colleagues, Rick Cerione who, along with chemist Jon Clardy, neurobiologist Ron Hoy, and plant biologist, Steve Tanskley, taught me a great deal about a new potential for veterinary medicine when I became dean 10 years ago.

Rick and his colleagues infused me with a passion that a veterinary college, on what is truly an exceptional research campus, could provide unique opportunities for implementing novel approaches that are emerging from chemistry, physics and engineering. They encouraged me to consider that our college had the capacity to leverage innovation in the physical as well as the biological sciences, to strengthen veterinary and comparative medicine. I shall always be grateful for their passion that influenced my own clinical background as a veterinary surgeon, and encouraged me to advocate for an expanded approach to animal medicine.

Our celebration today represents a very important step forward for the Life Sciences at Cornell University, and I am so delighted to share my gratitude for the present and my optimism for the future.

I now introduce my colleague, Mike Kotlikoff, Chair of Biomedical Sciences and soon-to-be the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine.

~ June 26, 2007