Class of 1978 VVS graduate becomes interim dean at veterinary school
Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School Class of 1978 graduate Dirk Vanderwall has become the interim dean of the new Utah State University College of Veterinary Medicine — a feat the Sherrill native said was strongly influenced by his home roots. Vanderwall’s path was laid out first by his family, who emigrated to Vernon in 1948 and settled on a small dairy farm on Route 5. Tending to his grandfather’s farm as a child for “many, many hours” had a “profound influence” on Vanderwall. His grandfather passed away when he was a young boy, and the farmstead was subsequently no more.
Those formative years tending to barn chores stuck with Vanderwall. As a young high school student in the summer of 1975, he took a job as a live-in hired hand on the Putman Dairy Farm in Oneida, owned and operated by Myron and Kate Putman along with their son, Roger. The following year, he took work at Kenwood Station Standardbred Horse Farm, owned by Pete and Phyllis Noyes. He continued working at Kenwood Station throughout high school and into his college years, all the while being “extensively involved and exposed” to equine care tasks and procedures, particularly those performed by the veterinarians from the Steele Equine Clinic in Vernon who frequented the farm.
As a freshman at Cobleskill studying agricultural business, Vanderwall finally knew he wanted to pursue veterinary science. He finished his time at Cobleskill with an associates degree in science laboratory technology then transferred to Cornell to study animal science and later be accepted to Cornell veterinary school.
From the time he chose to pursue veterinary medicine, Vanderwall spent many hours at local animal clinics to broaden his experience. On weekends and on holiday breaks in college he would shadow the doctors at Oneida Animal Hospital and Village Veterinary Hospital in Wampsville. “Most of my contact with [the doctors] was, as they were doing ambulatory calls, doing their farm calls out in the countryside, I would ride with them in their veterinary practice vehicle as they went from farm to farm. I also did spend time in small animal clinics,” he shared.
Today, Vanderwall’s veterinary niche is equine reproduction. “That seed was planted by just picking up a part-time job at the local horse farm and getting exposed to working with horses,” he reflected.
You never know what will become the seed in your own career path, so have an open mind, Vanderwall advised. “Broaden your opportunities and be open to looking at new and potentially different experiences ... that can help lead to a career path. And don’t be afraid to change ... and then follow your interests as they develop.”
The new Utah State University College of Veterinary Medicine will become USU’s ninth college. Vanderwall, who will serve as interim dean, has served as head of USU’s Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences and associate dean for the School of Veterinary Medicine since USU became part of the Washington-Idaho-Montana-Utah Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine 10 years ago.
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