I'm not a believer in the adage "bad things come in threes." However, that old saying appears true in this case. Three men, all highly influential in the field of pet nutrition, passed away over the course of only the last few months. I knew all of them personally, and each contributed in their own way to my professional development. I'll miss them greatly.
Dr. James E. Corbin
I didn't have the fortune to meet Dr. Corbin until the early 1990s, when I asked him to serve on the Association of American Feed Control Officials Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee (as well as, subsequently, the Feline Nutrition Expert Subcommittee). At that time, I believe he had already "retired" from the University of Illinois after a long, distinguished career in both industry and academia. However, that never slowed him down. For many years after, he continued to be a notable presence at many industry meetings, including Petfood Forum.
In my experience, Dr. Corbin always had a kind word for everyone. His propensity for compliments of others was matched by his enthusiasm for and interest in the field of pet nutrition. His face had a perpetual grin, and when asked, things were always terrific. Despite our age differences and personal familiarity, he insisted on addressing me by title, although at the same time in a most friendly manner (i.e., "Doctor Dave").
Dr. David S. Kronfeld
Dr. Kronfeld may not be as familiar as the other two within the petfood industry, but he was a virtual giant in the field of veterinary nutrition. He was one of only 18 Charter Diplomates in the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) when it was formed in the late 1980s.
Much of Dr. Kronfeld's work in later years at Virginia Tech focused on equine nutrition, but his contributions to the field of canine nutrition, especially in regard to the feeding of sled dogs, cannot be underestimated. To borrow from an old country western song, he "was 'low carb' when 'low carb' wasn't cool."
His frequent participation in many discussions on both the ACVN and American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition E-mail listserves speaks to his knowledge on a vast array of nutrition topics.
One of my clearest memories of Dr. Kronfeld was a time when we were eating lunch together with a few other colleagues at a veterinary meeting. I was a mere graduate student and eager to learn. However, of all the potential topics we could have talked about, our discussion kept going back to whose menu choice was better, his or mine. While I didn't appreciate it at the time, he was really engaging me in the Socratic method of learning. This means of critical thinking through dialogue has proven helpful to me through the years, regardless of subject matter.
More information about Dr. Kronfeld's life and contributions to the field may be found here.
Dr. Mark L. Morris Jr.
Dr. Morris (along with his father, Dr. Mark Morris Sr.) may be best known for the introduction and development of Hill's Prescription Diets, one of the first lines of veterinary medical petfoods that remain popular to this day. As another ACVN Charter Diplomate, he was a frequent guest speaker at veterinary schools, which is where I first met him. His knowledge of and passion for the subject was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in veterinary nutrition.
Despite his preeminence in the field, I remember Dr. Morris as approachable, eager to help and humble. I recall only a few years ago when the National Research Council Committee on Dog and Cat Nutrition held one of its work sessions at a location where, coincidentally, Dr. Morris was being honored for his longtime contributions to veterinary medicine. Other committee members and I attended the function to add our accolades, but Dr. Morris turned the tables. Instead of just receiving his due praise, he shared the spotlight and asked us also to stand for recognition by the audience.