Two people wearing Virginia Tech gear.

More than 25 years before the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine opened, Bill Thornton '56 attended Virginia Tech strongly considering a veterinary career. He didn’t become a veterinarian, but Thornton’s legacy with the veterinary college will continue many years forward.

Having grown up with a father who owned racehorses and a grandfather with a farm he often visited, Thornton enrolled in an animal husbandry program in Virginia Tech’s agricultural college. But, later, his career interests shifted to business, and he graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and applied economics, and he pursued a career in real estate appraisal.

The late Bill Thornton and his wife Rita supported the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine since its 1980 inception and donated to other areas of Virginia Tech for even longer. 

Most recently, the Thorntons connected with the mission of the veterinary college by having two spaces named in the teaching hospital, with the proceeds supporting the Veterinary Teaching Hospital expansion.   

In 1995, the Thorntons donated 169 acres of land to Virginia Tech, the proceeds of the land’s sale supporting the William and Rita Thornton Veterinary Research Fund.

“I was so amazed at how research at the veterinary college was done not just for animals, but for the benefit of humans too,” Rita Thornton said. “I had never given it much thought, but once we got connected to the college we were compelled to contribute towards such an impactful mission.”

Written by Kevin Myatt for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing