Dr. William Omar Reece, 94, died on Wednesday February 1 surrounded by his family. Funeral services will be held on Saturday February 11, at 11:00 a.m. at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Ames.
William Omar Reece was born in Ledyard, Iowa to the parents of Ovedia and Edward Reece on September 4, 1928. He lived on the family farm in Ledyard until he graduated high school in May of 1946 as class valedictorian where he inspired his class by saying, “You have crossed the bay; the ocean lies before you.” He enlisted into the U.S. Army, reporting for duty on September 16, 1946 at Fort Snelling as a Private in the Army of Occupation. He departed on the SS Chanute Victory, a troop ship bound for Yokohama Japan, on December 2, 1946 with about 1,500 other GI’s. He was a World War II veteran.
After his enlistment, he applied for admission to Iowa State College to pursue courses in Veterinary Medicine and obtained a job as a waiter in the girl’s dormitories where he was able to get 3 meals/day, all days of the week. He was later promoted to head waiter and there he met his future wife, Shirley Ann Bruckner. They were married on December 26, 1953 at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames.
He graduated from Veterinary School and the couple moved to Galesville, WI where he worked in Dr. Leonard J. Larson’s practice. He later took a position for Swift and Company in Chicago, where Shirley’s parents lived and started his family. He worked for Swift for 6 years and accepted a graduate position at Iowa State in September of 1961.
He went on to have an accomplished 38-year teaching career at Iowa State and retired from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) in 1998. During his career, he won several awards for outstanding teaching, and was selected ISU-CVM Professor of the Year in 1967 and the ISU Outstanding Teaching Award in 1970. In 2018, Dr. Reece was the recipient of the William P. Switzer Award recognizing his contributions to society and to the college.
He was instrumental in influencing admissions policies and decisions to create more opportunities for women in the veterinary field, which is now approximately 63% female. He authored several textbooks still in use today and that are published in multiple languages.
He served as an interim head of Tuskegee Veterinary school and was a visiting professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He established a student exchange program between Glasgow and Iowa State benefitting dozens of students and often hosted students in his home.
Every Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) student took his physiology course and he taught over 2,000 DVM students. The college’s advising award is named in his honor. He was a caring man, always taking time to know the name of everyone he interacted with. One of his colleagues said, “I can’t think of anyone that represents all that is well and good with the ideals of the veterinary profession and the ISU CVM more than Dr. Reece. A true Gentle Doctor.”
He often said that he couldn’t have planned a better life and that it was the Hand of God that guided him and his family. He was proud of his parents, his agricultural background, and his vocational choice in veterinary medicine and the opportunities it afforded. The collegiality of the profession and of his class of 1954 were always dear to his heart. Upon his retirement, Shirley presented him a plaque which had the following quotation from Pope John XXIII that summed up his life philosophy:
“See Everything. Overlook a Great Deal. Improve a Little.”
Survivors include six daughters: Mary Kay Truckenmiller (Steve) of Ames, Kathy Farstad (Jim) of Minneapolis, Barbara Benn (Jim) of Ames, Sara Reece (Jim Denny) of Ames, Anna Herrick (Rob) of Cleveland Ohio, Susan Randall (Mike) of Overland Park Kansas, and one son: William Omar Reece II. (Heather) of Hudson, Wisconsin. In addition, he is survived by 24 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife and 4 siblings.