Dr. Stephen J. Roberts '38
FOR RELEASE: January 25, 2005
Stephen J. Roberts, DVM MS passed away on January 21, 2005. Dr. Roberts was a man of many accomplishments: known as veterinary clinician and scholar, teacher and a major figure in collegiate polo. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 5, 1915, Dr. Roberts was raised in Hamburg, NY where his father, Dr James Roberts, a Cornell graduate (DVM 1912), practiced veterinary medicine. Dr. Roberts attended Cornell University, earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1938. While a student at Cornell, he enrolled in the ROTC field artillery unit and captained the first national championship polo team (1937). In 1938 he married Betty Jane Harris (Cornell '38) and they moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where he taught veterinary medicine and earned his Master of Science degree. In 1942 he joined the faculty at Cornell. He was named a full professor in the Department of Large Animal Medicine, Obstetrics and Surgery in 1946 and served as chairman of the department twice: 1965-66 and 1969-72. Dr. Roberts retired in 1972.
Dr. Roberts established an enviable reputation during his tenure at Cornell. He was a distinguished researcher and educator, authoring over 150 scientific articles and a classic textbook in 1956, "Veterinary Obstetrics and Genital Diseases" which was published in three editions - the final edition was released in 1986. Dr. Roberts was among the first faculty members to advocate for a research component in all faculty appointments, now a common practice. He is acknowledged for his pioneering effort to promote equine research at Cornell.
Dr. Roberts was an ardent fan of the library. He is remembered fondly by the library staff. He loved books, was an avid reader, and was fascinated by new technologies and how accessible they made information. He donated many books to the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library.
Roberts is known to many Cornellians and the world of polo as "Doc" Roberts. Often referred to as the "Dean of College Polo" he coached men's polo from 1947 to 1972, winning eight national titles for Cornell University. He was installed in the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Roberts instilled principles of team play, hard work, and sportsman-like conduct, to generations of Cornellians who came to Ithaca from across the globe to study and play polo. Doc had an enormous positive influence on intercollegiate polo throughout the country, and that was the primary reason for his induction into the United States Polo Association Hall of Fame in Palm Beach, Florida. He authored a book on Cornell polo "An Autobiographical History of Collegiate Polo and its Players at Cornell University, 1919-1972 and Beyond."
Many professional activities benefited from Dr. Roberts' efforts. He served 13 years on the Judicial Council of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), was a charter diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists, was an associate editor of the Veterinary News, and provided years of service to the Cornell Veterinary Alumni Association. He received the prestigious national Borden Award from the AVMA for his research on cattle disease, the Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, and the Salmon Award given only to Cornell's most august veterinary alumni.
Upon retiring from Cornell University in 1972, Dr. Roberts joined his brother, Dr. James Roberts, in a veterinary practice in Woodstock, Vermont. Known there for his work with large animals, he continued in practice for 21 years. In 1993 he married Ruth Webb Shipman and began retirement in Bath, New York.
Dr. Roberts is survived by his wife, Ruth Shipman Roberts of Bath; daughter, Gail Roberts of NC; and son, Stephen (Laura) Roberts of NC; two stepdaughters, Barbara Shipman of Pine City, NY, and Betty Joy (Paul) Marsh of Syracuse, NY; three grandsons, Michael Roberts of VT, Christopher Pellenz of Syracuse, NY, and William Pellenz of Chittenango, NY: three great-grandchildren; his brother, Charles Roberts of Columbia; sister, Betsy Roberts of WA; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his first wife, BJ Harris; and his brother, James Roberts, DVM.
A memorial service will be held at Cornell University at a future date.
Friends wishing to make a gift in memory of Dr. Stephen "Doc" Roberts can do so through Cornell's secure on-line gift service. Please indicate how your gift is to be directed by choosing either College of Veterinary Medicine and writing in "Roberts Memorial" in box or by choosing Athletics and Physical Education and writing in "Doc Roberts Fund for Polo."
Go to Cornell on-line gift service
Or gifts can be sent via US mail to:
Pittsburgh, PA 15251-2623
- in memory of Dr. Stephen Roberts '38
The Doc Roberts Fund for Polo, Attention: John Webster, Cornell University Athletics, Teagle Hall, Campus Road, Ithaca, NY 14853