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Grand Rapids Veterinary College

Grand Rapids, Michigan



The Grand Rapids Press covered some school events.  The annual reports of the Michigan Department of Public Instruction provided enrollment statistics.  Journals such as Proceedings of the American Veterinary Medical Association chronicled the school’s relationships with the national body.  The Grand Rapids Public Library has a school archive, from which the student photo came.  The ad (right) is from the Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives.


Grand Rapids Veterinary College began as the Veterinary Department of Grand Rapids Medical College, both institutions founded by Dr. Leonard Conkey.  Initial enrollment was 10—one being a lady—increased to 14 in the second year.  By 1904 enrollment reached 70, two being students sent by the Cuban government.  Reports from the Department of Public Instruction show enrollments between 104 and 133 through 1917.


The graduation class of 1902 had 23, that of 1904 had 35, and that of 1915 had 42.  When the school closed in 1918, it had graduated 572 students.


Matriculation requirement for G.R.V.C. was one year of high school or its equivalent. Until 1909, the course of study at G.R.V.C. was two years of five months each. In 1908 G.R.V.C. received a Class B rating, and its graduates were not eligible for Civil Service examinations or for membership in the American Veterinary Medical Association unless they also met A.V.M.A. requirement of a three-year program of seven months each.  Ultimately  G.R.V.C. settled on a four-year course of six-months each. 


In 1908 G.R.V.C. made negative news twice.  First, students under the direction of Dean Herman L. Schuh had performed an operation on a blind horse without benefit of anesthesia. The Dean was fined for—and later cleared of—charges of animal cruelty.  Second, the school first admitted and then denied admission to two Black students.  White students walked out after the Black students were admitted. 


The only extra-curricular activity mentioned in newspapers was an upcoming debate on women’s suffrage in 1914.


School ads stressed the practical advantages in attending G.R.V.C.  Students gained more than 1800 hours of actual experience in treating cases and performing operations through the free clinic and in assisting veterinarian doctors.  Ads also stressed the high (98%) success rate of  school alumni in state board exams and in obtaining employment.


Like many private veterinary colleges, G.R.V.C. closed after World War I. Classes were suspended in 1918, with most students transferring to Michigan State University.

GRVC Students and a professor dissect a horse.  Image from Grand Rapids History and Special Collections (GRHSC), Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This image may not be recopied or repoduced.

Bricks  and Mortar

The first address for Grand Rapids Veterinary College was 215 Butterworth Avenue, an address shared with the medical college.  By 1905 it had made a move to 38-40 Louis Street in “the very heart of the city”   The building, measuring 40 x 90 feet, contained four floors “entirely given up to college purposes.”  The first floor contained a “model” operating room and dissecting room.  A 200-seat amphitheater was on the second floor.  The third floor contained a lecture room seating 125 and the chemical lab.  Another lecture room, a reading room and the microscopic lab were on the fourth floor.  The building’s location was convenient for the many students who held part time jobs.


The listed address in 1915 was 190 Louis Street.  None of the buildings used by G.R.V.C. are existent.


1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the 38-40 Louis Street building.  The brick building has three floors over a basement. accesed 1-7-2018


A 1916 GRVC ad claimed an “athletic association” and “organized football teams.”  The first newspaper reference I found in 1913 showed a 37-0 loss to Hope College.  That same year the team was challenged by the independent Kokomos football team.  The “Horse Doctors” played (or scheduled) five games in the 1916 season. The Saganaw News reported a 208-0 loss to Kalamazoo College, (a score later revised to 108-0 in Athletic Calendar).  Other opponents that season were Kalamazoo Normal (now Western Michigan University), Alma College, Battle Creek Physical Training School, and Ferris Institute.  The College Football Data Warehouse shows no games after that season.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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