John R. Gorham Comparative Medicine Scholarship Endowment

Dr. John R. Gorham Comparative Medicine Scholarship Endowment is awarded to a student enrolled full-time in the professional veterinary medicine who best demonstrates an interest in laboratory animal medicine or comparative medicine, and has performed research or clinical investigations in these fields in an exemplary fashion.

The Dr. John R. Gorham Comparative Medicine Scholarship Endowment is awarded to a student enrolled full-time in the professional veterinary medicine who best demonstrates an interest in laboratory animal medicine or comparative medicine, and has performed research or clinical investigations in these fields in an exemplary fashion.

Dr. John Gorham was a professor of veterinary microbiology and pathology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and held the longest tenure of any faculty member ever employed in the college. Since he received his DVM degree from WSU in 1946, he continuously taught, conducted research, and provided service for the profession, the USDA, and the University. Virtually every living WSU veterinary alumnus in the world had at least one lecture during their professional training delivered by Dr. Gorham.

Those of us who knew John, knew his commitment to unmatched teaching and research; we believe there is no better way to honor his dedication to WSU and the college, than to support a fellowship or scholarship in his name.

The Dr. John R. Gorham Fellowship in Veterinary Medicine was established to foster the education and scientific curiosity of graduate students studying animal diseases and to honor one of our most distinguished faculty members.


John Richard Gorham, a resident of Pullman for 69 years, died of age-related causes Oct. 14 at Bishop Place where he had lived for six years.

Gorham was born on Dec. 19, 1922, to Richard and Mae Gorham in Puyallup, Wash. He was reared and educated in Sumner, Wash.

Following graduation from Sumner High School, he attended Washington State College (now University) where he was a member of WSU's freshman basketball team. He received a bachelor's degree, and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from WSC. He also received a master's degree, the first given at Washington State University in veterinary medicine. In 1952 he received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.

While at Washington State College, he married Mary Ellen Martin on May 23, 1944. During World War II, he served in the Army while attending veterinary school. Gorham also served in the Army Reserve as a major and continued to serve in the Army Reserve Veterinary Corps.

Following graduation, he was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was research leader for animal diseases at Pullman. He held this position until 1995 when he retired from the USDA. Until his death in 2011, he held the position of professor in the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2011 he was named a WSU Diamond Donor for 50 years of contributing to the WSU Foundation. He and his wife have a plaque in the Walk of Fame in downtown Pullman.

He was a charter member of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, a charter member of the American College of Laboratory Medicine and an honorary member of the American College of Veterinary Pathology. He was elected to membership in the National Academies of Practice and an overseas member of the British Royal Society of Medicine as well as the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. He was the author or co-author of 700 publications. Two virus strains are named for Gorham, Aleutian disease and distemper.

Gorham was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Zeta. He also was a past president of the Cougar Club, a member of the WSU Foundation and a retired member of Good Fellowship. In 1975 he led the first veterinary delegation to the Soviet Union.

Gorham received many honors during his lifetime including the Gaines Medal and also the International Veterinary Award given by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinarian of the Year Award from the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, the Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award, Fur Farming Industry's Hall of Fame, USDA's Distinguished Scientist of the Year (1991), the first veterinarian inducted into the USDA Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame and the Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University's highest alumni honor. He also was named a Legend in Veterinary Medicine, was initiated into the USDA's Hall of Fame and he received the Gold Headed Cane award from the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology.

In 2007 after he retired, he received the American Veterinary Medical Association's Lifetime Excellence in Research Award given to one veterinarian in the United States each year.

During his lifetime, Gorham traveled to more than 50 countries to advise foreign research programs. He represented the United States as chairman of the Biotechnology Committee of the World Health Organization and was on other international committees.

He was a world authority on fur animal and canine diseases and contributed significantly to slow virus disease research. His most important contributions included discovery of a new rickettsial disease of dogs, control of nutritional diseases of mink, laboratory tests for dog and mink diseases and a spray vaccine used for immunization of at least 20 million mink worldwide each year. Two animal virus strains and a virus technique were named for Gorham.

He was an enthusiastic gardener, enjoyed fishing and camping and he traveled extensively in a Born Free motor home. He was a ham radio operator (W7MEH), a hobby he started when he was in high school. He was an ardent supporter of WSU's football and basketball programs and seldom missed Pac-10 home games.

His philosophy was expressed in many lectures he gave:

  • Research is a great life.
  • You meet a lot of interesting people.
  • You work in a warm room.
  • You don't have to lift anything heavy.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years at their Bishop Place cottage; one daughter, Katherine and her husband, Roscoe Caron; one son, Dr. Jay Gorham and his wife, Karla; and two granddaughters, Lindsay Thompson and Casey Vogt.

At his request, no service will be held. Memorials are suggested to the Comparative Medicine Scholarship, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, PO Box 647010, Pullman, WA 99164.


Questions about giving? Contact Lynne Haley or 509-335-5021.

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