Not Slowing Down

At 89 years of age, Dr. William O. Reece doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

The professor emeritus still makes his way to his College of Veterinary Medicine office on a daily basis. “Well, almost every day,” he concedes. “I take a day off from time to time.”

And he is continuing an Iowa State tradition with the 13th edition of Dukes’ Physiology of Domestic Animals that published in 2015. Reece started working on the publication during its 10th edition as one of the authors. 

Dukes’ Physiology is a classic reference on domestic animal physiology which provides detailed descriptions of animal function and dysfunction. The textbook places particular emphasis on clinical relevance and pedagogical features to enhance learning.

It’s been a classic since the very first edition was published by Dr. H. Hugh Dukes (DVM, Iowa State College, 1918). Once Dukes retired from the veterinary medicine faculty at Cornell University, Iowa State professor Dr. Melvin Swenson took over the editing duties for editions eight through eleven.

“Dr. Swenson was my major professor here at Iowa State during my graduate studies,” said Reece (DVM ’54 PhD ’65). “I started working on the 10th edition, that published in 1984, as an author, and have been involved with Dukes' Physiology ever since.”

Reece has evolved from an author of a few chapters to becoming co-editor with Dr. Swenson for the 11th edition, and single editor for the 12th and 13th editions. In addition to being editor, he authored several chapters in each of the 11th, 12th, and 13th editions.

Dukes' Physiology is a classic,” Reece says. “I’m extremely proud to carry on the book’s legacy in the latest editions. I believe Dr. Dukes would be satisfied with how the book has aged over the years.”

Today Dukes' Physiology is translated into eight different languages and holds a large international prestige. And keeping the Iowa State tradition alive, the 13th edition was assisted by Iowa State faculty members Dr. Jesse Goff and Dr. Etsuro Uemura, professors in ISU’s CVM, Department of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr. Howard Erickson, Kansas State University, as Associate Editors. Dr. Erickson received his PhD at Iowa State.

While Reece is proud of his work with Dukes' Physiology, he is equally as proud of his undergraduate textbook, Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals. Reece saw the need for the book while teaching an undergraduate physiology course at Iowa State for 25 years to students in animal science, pre-veterinary medicine, and other animal related curricula. Now in its 5th edition, it is co-authored with Dr. Eric Rowe in ISU’s CVM biomedical sciences.

But it is in the College of Veterinary Medicine, where Reece has had his real impact. Every DVM graduate took his physiology courses and Reece estimates he taught 2,000 DVM students over the years.

And to this day, he continues to think of ways to aid students. The college’s advising award is named in his honor and he continues to reach out to students 20 years after retiring.

One of those ways is through the Dr.  H. Hugh Dukes Award, established by Reece in 1986, in honor of Dr. Dukes to provide graduate fellowships for veterinarians. Reece wants to raise awareness of the award and the need for additional graduate fellowships for veterinarians who return to get their PhD.

“There is a huge need for fellowship support for veterinarians to pursue graduate education,” he said. “Over the years, many of our veterinarians received graduate education elsewhere and have distinguished themselves in veterinary research. It’s becoming more and more difficult for a recent DVM graduate to return to school because of the costs.

“If we can adequately fund the Dukes Award it would go a long way to helping this problem.”

As you can see, Reece isn’t slowing down – that is with one small exception.

“Every day I worked in the college I would either walk or bike to work,” he recalled. “I didn’t get a parking permit until after I retired and only got one then because back then they gave retirees a free permit.”

“I gave up my bike a few years back and now I drive to work.”

No matter how he gets to the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. William Reece remains on top of his game.