Retirement Reception Honors Dr. Pete Bill

June 30, 2017

Dean Willie Reed congratulates Dr. Pete Bill after presenting him with a framed print of the Continuum sculpture during a reception in honor of Dr. Bill’s retirement.

Dean Willie Reed congratulates Dr. Pete Bill after presenting him with a framed print of the Continuum sculpture during a reception in honor of Dr. Bill’s retirement.

Well-wishers gathered in the Continuum Café Tuesday, June 27, to congratulate Dr. Pete Bill (PU DVM ’80) on his retirement after an extensive Purdue Veterinary Medicine career that spanned some 32 years.  “It has been one of those bittersweet days when we are here to say goodbye to someone who has made so many important contributions to our college,” Dean Willie Reed said as he addressed the crowd of faculty and staff.  “And because we are saying goodbye we may be a little sad, but at the same time we are happy because Dr. Pete Bill begins the next phase of life. I know he has been looking forward to this for some time…”

Dr. Bill is a Purdue Veterinary Medicine alumnus who earned his DVM degree in 1980 and then entered private veterinary practice as a small animal practitioner.  He also started teaching at Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI).  In 1985, he received his MS degree from IUPUI and returned to Purdue’s West Lafayette campus as a graduate instructor and David Ross Fellow in the College of Veterinary Medicine.  He earned his PhD at Purdue in 1990 and became a visiting assistant professor of clinical pharmacology and assistant to the director of the College’s Veterinary Technology Program. 

Dean Reed commended Dr. Bill for his vision in choosing to focus on education as part of his advanced degree work.  “So as a veterinary educator, he is probably more of an educator than any of us…We have sort of learned it on the job and, Pete, I congratulate you for the foresight that you had for wanting to pursue teaching to understand what makes a good teacher – to understand the mind of a student and understand that people learn differently and there are different approaches to consider…”

Dr. Bill rose through the academic ranks, becoming a tenured associate professor in 1995 and a full professor in 2007.  “All along the way he was making many contributions to our college,” Dean Reed said.  “He played such an important role in developing the curriculum that we have today in our college – a curriculum for which we have received many accolades all across the country, especially from the American Veterinary Medical Association – this hybrid curriculum we have which is composed of problem-based learning as well as traditional didactic instruction.”

Dr. Bill also had a great interest in veterinary technology, and eventually became the director of the Veterinary Technology Program.  He also spearheaded the development of the Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program, which became the first totally online degree that Purdue offered.  “If you talk to people in the veterinary technology education field, everybody knows Dr. Bill, and everybody knows our program because it is an elite program,” Dean Reed said. “It has a wonderful reputation and it achieved that status because we have had great leadership. The inaugural director really got the program off to a great start. Then Dr. Bill came along and just took it to a different level and because of that he was a sought after consultant for veterinary technology programs all over the country…So because of that Pete, you certainly enhanced our reputation… and the reputation of Purdue University.”

Dean Reed also pointed out that Dr. Bill was the consummate teacher, and his teaching improved every year.  “Every teaching award that we have in this college he has received and sometimes three or four times.”  Dr. Bill also received the university’s Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award and was inducted into the Purdue Teaching Academy.  Then in 2015 he received the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Distinguished Teacher Award, presented by Zoetis. “It’s a national teaching award which means he’s the best that we have at veterinary medical education,” Dean Reed explained.  “He has certainly taught in small group situations, large classrooms, laboratories, given numerous workshops across the country and here on campus…So he has been interested in all kinds of teaching and has always been willing to try something different and think about something different and see if it works because he approaches teaching from the standpoint of always having the student in mind…Pete, I congratulate you on just a fabulous career and I think it goes without question to say that you are indeed a master teacher.” 

Dean Reed then read a letter from the Purdue Provost naming Dr. Bill as professor emeritus of basic medical sciences, and also presented him with a framed picture of the Continuum sculpture in recognition of his retirement.  Additionally, Dean Reed expressed appreciation to Dr. Bill for most recently accepting the assignment of serving as assistant dean for academic affairs focusing on teaching and learning. “You filled a huge need here and worked closely with our faculty to improve their teaching.”

Dr. Pete Bill with Veterinary Technology Program colleagues (left-right) Sue Sanders, Paige Allen and Harry Latshaw.

Dr. Pete Bill with Veterinary Technology Program colleagues (left-right) Sue Sanders, Paige Allen and Harry Latshaw.

Then Dr. Kathy Salisbury, associate dean for academic affairs spoke, noting how Dr. Bill has been really valued by the students.  “I know he’s had lots of people coming into his office saying, ‘we wish you weren’t leaving,’ ‘we’re really going to miss you,’ and it’s true everybody is going to miss you,” Dr. Salisbury said. “You’re going to leave a big void in teaching because you’re such a good teacher, you’re so good at taking complex ideas and turning them into something that is relatively simple that students can remember and they really value that.”

Dr. Salisbury also praised Dr. Bill for his ability to focus on the real goals of a particular program or initiative, whether the Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program or the development of the applications and integrations courses.  “So Pete got trained in problem-based learning,” Dr. Salisbury recalled. “Then he started passing his knowledge on to some of the rest of us and some of us went and got trained… and all the problem-based learning gurus said…you can’t mix traditional curriculum with problem-based learning because it won’t go well. But we made it go well and Pete led that. He said we can do this and got a team of people around him so we’ve been doing it for 20 years. I think the students have really appreciated it.”

Dr. Salisbury also pointed out that Dr. Bill served as the president of the Veterinary Technology Educators Association and was also on the accrediting body for six years.  She concluded by saying, “I just wanted to say thank you for everything that you’ve done and for all that you contributed to all of us.”

Then Dr. Bill responded, demonstrating his teaching ability by capitalizing on one more teaching opportunity.  “Every one of you here is part of something bigger than yourself,” Dr. Bill said. “Either you’re down at clinics or you’re teaching in laboratories or you’re having some impact on animals and animal owners or students who come through here. You are doing something that is far bigger than what you are, and that gives us a lot of energy. That is what has given me a lot of energy over the years. I always believed I was a part of something bigger. Purdue University, the veterinary college, and the vet tech program are all going to go on longer after I’m gone...So this retirement is really not about me, it’s just about telling you to please carry on.”

Two Veterinary Technology Program alumni have started on a mission to endow a named scholarship in honor of Dr. Bill to assist veterinary technology students.  The fundraising goal to endow The Dr. Robert “Pete” Bill Veterinary Technology Scholarship in the College of Veterinary Medicine, enabling the fund to continue in perpetuity, is $25,000.  Click here to contribute now or contact Tanya Finkbiner at 765-494-5032 for more information.

Dr. Pete Bill is congratulated by Dr. Mohamed Seleem, associate professor of microbiology in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.

Dr. Pete Bill is congratulated by Dr. Mohamed Seleem, associate professor of microbiology in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.

Writer: Kevin Doerr, pvmnews@purdue.edu


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