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August 16, 2010

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August 16, 2010

For 42 years, Donald Jasper rode a secondhand bicycle from his Davis home to the University of California, Davis. Few who observed the twice-daily routine would have guessed that the tall, angular man was a professor and, at one time, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, as well as an authority on milk quality and livestock disease.

Jasper, 91, died July 25 at the University Retirement Community in Davis. A memorial service in his honor will be held at 1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 5, at the University Retirement Community Auditorium, 1515 Shasta Drive, Davis.

Born on Dec. 30, 1918, in the northeastern Oregon farm community of Island City, Jasper was the oldest of four children. Growing up, he regularly rode a horse bareback to school and worked as a farmhand for his family and neighboring farmers, often driving multihorse draft teams.

He helped his father establish a cereal company, "Jasper's Health Nuggets." And, by the time he graduated from La Grande High School, he had earned his pilot's license, worked as a surveyor and was employed as a chauffeur.

After receiving his associate degree in 1938 from Eastern Oregon College in LaGrande, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree and doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 1940 and 1942 from Washington State University. It was there at a college dance that he fell for the young chaperone Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Miller. The couple wed in 1943.

Jasper continued his studies at Iowa State College, where he earned a master's degree in veterinary medicine in 1944, and the University of Minnesota, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1947.

That same year, he joined the faculty of the nascent School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. A university news release at the time noted that Jasper was hired to "be in charge of the University's livestock at Davis" and to "be responsible for the development of the animal clinic there when the new veterinary school opens."

In 1954, he was appointed dean of the veterinary school, succeeding the founding dean, George H. Hart. Jasper would serve as dean for eight years, returning to his teaching and research position in 1962.

"Don was one of our founding faculty members and served as dean during the time when the school was rapidly developing," said Bennie Osburn, current dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
"After he stepped back into a faculty role, he became known as an expert in mycoplasma mastitis, a serious disease of dairy cattle, and was one of the leaders as clinical pathology for animals became a specialty.

"Don was always well-liked as a person, and as a highly valued member of our faculty," Osburn said.

Robert Bushnell, a UC Cooperative Extension veterinarian emeritus who also worked with dairy cattle, recalled Jasper fondly.

"Dr. Jasper was dean, teacher mentor and friend to many of us who passed through the halls of veterinary medicine as students and colleagues," Bushnell said. "His knowledge and integrity cast a long and lasting influence on our personal and professional lives."

Jasper's research focused on milk quality and mastitis, an inflammation of the cow's udder. His many published studies dealt with issues such as mastitis screening and various mechanisms to prevent udder injuries.

During the late 1940s, Jasper was instrumental in developing pathology as a separate discipline at UC Davis. Prior to that, pathology was part of the veterinary science division, with research focused strictly on disease-oriented, rather than discipline-oriented, studies.

In 1967, Jasper received the Borden Award from the American Veterinary Medical Association in recognition of his research contributions in the area of dairy cattle disease control. He also was selected by the Fulbright-Hays program to serve as a research scientist in New Zealand in 1975-76 and as a distinguished professor in Yugoslavia in 1978. And in 1987, he received the American Dairy Science Association Award for research on mastitis and milk quality.

Outside of his campus duties, Jasper in 1947 helped found the First Baptist Church of Davis, where he sang in the church choir for many years. He also was active in the local chapter of Gideons International, an organization devoted to distribution of Bibles.

His family recalls that he was passionate about reaching out across cultural divides and regularly invited international students home for meals and Christmas ski trips to Granlibakken near Lake Tahoe.

For many years, he routinely swam a mile after work, enjoyed downhill skiing in the winter and commuted to his campus laboratory via bicycle.

Believing that good land was meant to be cultivated, Jasper also grew an abundance of fruits and nuts in the family's backyard orchard.

In addition to his wife, Jasper is survived by his son, Donald Richard Jasper of Granite Bay; daughter Jeannie Jasper Edwards of Morrison, Colo.; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also leaves two sisters and 23 nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial gifts be made to the UC Regents to support the Dr. Donald E. Jasper Scholarship at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Checks should be made payable to the UC Regents, and sent to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616; or an online gift can be made at:

The family also suggests that memorial contributions may be made to Wycliffe Bible Translators Last Languages Campaign, P.O. Box 628211, Orlando, FL 32862-8211, <>; or Gideons International, P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214.

Media contact(s):

* Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843,