Skip to main content

Stalker, Millikan

Published onOct 14, 2021
Stalker, Millikan

(August 6, 1841 – June 14, 1909)

Quick Facts

Alumnus Stalker spent two decades working to expand and improve both the curriculum and the physical facilities for Veterinary Medicine.


Millikan Stalker was the fifth in a family of eight children of George and Hannah (Millikan) Stalker, who emigrated to Iowa from Indiana when Millikan was 10 years old and settled on a farm near Richland in Keokuk County. He attended the Spring Creek Institute near Oskaloosa, sponsored by the Society of Friends. After completing his coursework at the Spring Creek Institute, Stalker traveled to Tennessee and taught in the Freedman's schools established by the Union army in 1864. In March 1870 he began his studies at Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) and graduated in the fall of 1873. During his student days, Stalker served as editor of the first student newspaper, the Aurora, which began in June 1873.

Upon his graduation, Stalker was immediately appointed an instructor in agriculture and superintendent of the college farm, and in 1875 was promoted to assistant professor. In 1876 he pursued his lifelong interest in veterinary medicine, taking courses at the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons and Toronto Veterinary College in Ontario. He obtained a degree in veterinary science from the Toronto school in 1877 and returned to Ames to teach agriculture and veterinary science. In a state in which stock raising was so critical, the land grant school in Ames was an obvious place to create a state-supported school of veterinary medicine, so in 1879 the first such school was established, with Stalker as its first head. From 1879 to 1886 the veterinary course was for two years, after which it was extended to three years. Graduates were awarded the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

With his appointment as head of the veterinary school, Stalker spent the next two decades working to expand and improve both the curriculum and the physical facilities for the new program. Early veterinary classes were held in a renovated barn, which Stalker had donated for use. Soon the college was forced to move its classes to another temporary building, which quickly became inadequate; in 1884 the college's board of trustees sent Stalker to Boston to study plans for a new veterinary hospital being built there. In 1885 an appropriation for $10,000 paid for the construction of two new buildings to support veterinary science instruction. By the early 1890s Stalker again was requesting funding for improved facilities, but the legislature turned him down. In 1898 the veterinary program was reorganized, and President William Beardshear added to Stalker's duties the task of dean of the Veterinary Division. In 1900 Stalker stepped down from administrative work and fully retired from the college. Known as an excellent teacher who could explain clearly the intricacies of horse anatomy, Stalker was also a tenacious and committed advocate for the fledgling veterinary science program, and he worked tirelessly for increased funding for more staffing and always better facilities.

In addition to his work in Ames, Stalker was also instrumental in getting established in 1884 the Office of State Veterinary Surgeon in Iowa with the power to enforce various state regulations relating to contagious diseases. For 11 years he served as state veterinarian.

His Quaker roots remained strong; upon his retirement from his professional duties, he joined the American Peace Society and in 1905 was selected to attend the World Peace Conference in Lucerne, Switzerland. He also was a regular at the annual Peace and Arbitration conferences held at Lake Mohonk, New York. A generous donor to William Penn College, Stalker served for three years as a member of its board of trustees.

A lifelong bachelor, Stalker purchased a handsome home near campus, called the Gables, which he shared with two of his sisters. In his last years he spent a great deal of time carefully improving its grounds and structure. His world travels spurred his interest in foreign students, and each Sunday he opened his house to visits from foreign students and faculty. With the new century, his health began to decline steadily as he suffered from the effects of pernicious anemia, and he died in 1909 soon after returning from attending a peace conference in New York.

"Dr. Stalker devoted his time and energies as far as college work was concerned, to the development of the course of veterinary science. It still stand always in the college history that he laid the foundation of one of the great sections of our work at Iowa State."
– Edgar Stanton
4-time acting President, Iowa State University
June 2, 1909

Selections of text republished with permission from the Iowa Biographical Dictionary, edited by David Hudson, Marvin Bergman, and Loren Horton. Published by the University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA. Online publication, 2009. 

Selected Sources

Absalom Rosenberger, In Memoriam: Dr. Millikan Stalker, 1841–1909 [1909?]

E. W. Stanton, "Tribute and Biographical Sketch of Dr. Millikan Stalker," Alumnus 7 (June 1911), 17–22

M. H. Reynolds, "Dr. Stalker: An Appreciation," Alumnus 7 (June 1911), 23–27

Louis H. Pammel, Prominent Men I Have Met (1926).

Useful information on the early years of the veterinary school at Iowa State College is in Charles H. Stange, History of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State College (1929).

An obituary is in the Ames Evening Times, 6/17/1909.

Goedeken, Edward A. "Stalker, Millikan" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?