Washington State Magazine

Spring 2009

Spring 2009


In This Issue...


What Is Art For? :: Art, says independent scholar Ellen Dissanayake '57, is "making special." It is an act that gives us a sense of belonging and meaning. It is passed from mother to child. Its origins lie deep in our evolutionary past. It makes us human. by Tim Steury

The Love Letters :: In 1907, Othello had no high school, so Xerpha Mae McCulloch '30 traveled 50 miles to Ritzville to finish school. There she met, and fell in love with, Edward Gaines, a few years her senior. The recent gift to Washington State University of her steamer trunk reveals the life of a woman whose story is not only threaded through the University's, but also through the story of agriculture in Washington State. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Photos and letters from Xerpha's trunk }

You Must Remember This :: Having reached a certain age, our correspondent sets out to learn the latest from Washington State University researchers about memory. She learns that memory comes in different forms, that the human brain is made for problem-solving, and that the key to much of brain health is the "dendritic arbor." And then she sets out to create an action plan. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe's work to help people with memory loss }


Privacy and the Words of the Dead :: Do we violate the privacy of the dead when we read what they wrote for themselves? Maybe it depends on our purposes. by Will Hamlin

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Annotated pages from early English editions of Montaigne's Essays. }




:: SPORTS: Coaching with heart

:: GREEN PAGES: Building green

:: A gift toward fuel research

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Yucatecan lentil soup recipe }


Cover photo: Bryan Hall clock tower reflected in the Abelson-Heald skybridge windows on the Pullman campus. By Zach Mazur.

Roger McClellan.


Roger McClellan,

Roger McClellan - A suitable combination

by | © Washington State University

As a teen, Roger McClellan ’60 D.V.M. went to work at his high school farm. By helping manage a flock of sheep that were a control group in a Hanford nuclear facility study, he became part of a major research project on radioactivity in animals. The work put him in touch with Leo Bustad, at the time the research veterinarian at Hanford and later the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University.

Bustad’s study focused on ungulates consuming the radioiodine that had been deposited on pasture land on the Hanford site, which was then run by General Electric. Bustad would often stop by the high school farm to check on the control flock.

McClellan’s first encounter with WSU was about that same time. “I came to Pullman in the spring of ’53, one of eight hundred Future Farmers of America here for a convention,” he says. “Most of us left saying we were going to return as students. Many of us did.”

This fall, after a career in inhalation toxicology, science, and public policy, McClellan returned to Pullman with his wife Kathleen ’62 to be honored as Washington State’s Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus.

He is the archetype of a WSU veterinary alumnus, says Acting Provost and Dean of Veterinary Medicine Warwick Bayley, citing McClellan’s long and successful career and his dedication to the University.

“My career has really been intertwined in terms of science and policy,” says McClellan. He learned at Hanford about issue-resolving science and public policy, which set the path for the rest of his career.

As an undergraduate McClellan tackled three majors: engineering, economics, and pre-veterinary medicine. His obvious path seemed to lead to vet school. But once he had second thoughts. He recalls his anatomy class, “Two students to a dog, four students to a cow, eight to a horse,” he says. “You kind of wondered at that time, ‘Is this really for me?’”

He was a good student, though maybe not always the ideal student–at least from an administrator’s perspective. “At the end of every semester I’d write a letter to the dean critiquing the program,” says McClellan. “He didn’t seem to appreciate it.”

Throughout college McClellan found summer jobs back at Hanford working first in an engineering internship and then helping Bustad. The work gave him opportunities to work all over the plant, seeing sides of it he didn’t see growing up. The next two summers his work with Bustad focused on animal exposures to toxins. He was able to take the research he did at Hanford on Cesium 137 metabolism and turn it into an honors thesis.

The spring of his graduation, Hanford called again. “The next thing you know I’m signed on at Hanford as a biological scientist,” says McClellan. He took that job for $8,700 a year. “I thought it was good when I started,” he says. “But later, I decided a little more would be better.”

Combining his veterinary work with science research suited him. “I wouldn’t have fit in with the little old ladies and their pussy cats,” he says. While he was doing research at Hanford, he also enrolled in management training. “It turned out to be extraordinarily valuable,” says McClellan.

A few years into his time at Hanford, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission invited Bustad to serve as a scientist in Washington, D.C. Bustad sent McClellan instead. The post with the AEC Division of Biology and Medicine offered the young veterinarian insight into national research projects, government funding, and human health concerns. It also led to an appointment at the Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was hired in 1966 to start a lab there. He was just 29.

One of the things the Lovelace program looked at was what happens with a Chernobyl-type accident resulting in radioactivity in the air. What are the risks? “That led to developing a very strong aerosol science program,” he says. The group studied a suite of aerosol fission products, with the help of a good team of physicists, chemists, statisticians, and veterinarians. “We became a leading lab in inhalation toxicology,” says McClellan. “I’m a very strong advocate of team research. Most of the problems in the real world require a multidisciplinary team.”

After leaving Lovelace, he served as president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology until 1999. Throughout his career, he has advised both public and private research efforts. He served on the original science advisory board for the EPA and was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Categories: Alumni, Biological sciences | Tags: Biochemistry

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