In memoriam: Mark Crisman, veterinary professor
Mark Virgil Crisman, a professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine from 1987-2010, died on May 20 at the age of 69.
At the veterinary college, Crisman served as a professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and section chief of equine medicine and surgery. He also served as director of the Molecular Diagnostics Lab. He was named Teacher of the Year in 2004 and delivered the commencement address in 2008.
Jacquelyn Pelzer DVM ’97, the veterinary college’s assistant dean of student affairs and college admissions, recalled how Crisman was an inspiration for her when she was a student.
“Mark had a significant impact on my love for veterinary medicine as he knew how to make learning fun, even in very stressful situations,” Pelzer said. “Mark loved the students, the clients, and the horses he worked with, and this was demonstrated by the persistent smile on his face as we passed him in the hallways.”
“Mark was a global ambassador for the college and the veterinary profession,” said Terry Swecker DVM ’84, Ph.D. '90, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Wherever you went with him, he knew someone. This network also resulted in a multitude of clinical and research opportunities for our students and graduates as they navigated the profession.”
Crisman was known for his application of acupuncture in some clinical cases. He was certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.
Crisman, born in Syracuse, New York, on Sept. 25, 1953, died in an ATV accident. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Celeste Coker Crisman; a brother, Barry Bryant Crisman and his wife, Regina; a brother-in-law, Kenneth Andrew Rapoport; niece, Jamie Crisman; and nephew, Dylan Rapoport. He was preceded in death by his parents, Virgil Henry “Cris” Crisman III and Nancy Jamieson Bryant Crisman, and his sister, Linda Jamieson Rapoport.
After his time at the veterinary college, Crisman joined Zoetis in 2010 as a senior veterinarian in equine technical services. In 2020, he was chosen to serve on the board of Horses and Human Research Foundation as vice president of scientific advisors.
“He loved his work, his team members, and seeing his former students in practice all over the country and world,” according to his obituary. “He continued lecturing at several vet schools in the southeast and never wanted to lose his connection to teaching.”
"I really enjoyed Mark as both a person and professor,” said Bill Tyrrell ’88, DVM ’92, of Leesburg, co-owner and board-certified veterinary cardiologist for CVCA: Cardiac Care for Pets. “He will be dearly missed and always remembered for his great clinical acumen and teaching skills along with his crazy sense of humor."
Crisman was an avid adventurer who enjoyed snow skiing, skydiving, deep-sea diving, camping, trail riding and riding his ATV, both for fun and work on his farm. “He loved his farm and took great pleasure in creating a beautiful oasis, working on it every day possible while collecting and pampering a great herd of mostly misfits,” according to his obituary.
“Mark Crisman was one of the most joyful individuals I have ever met,” Pelzer said. “He had an uncanny ability to truly engage others in meaningful conversations.”
Crisman earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky in 1977, then went overseas to get his Doctor in Veterinary Medicine in 1984 from the University of Warsaw in Poland. He later obtained a Master of Science in veterinary medicine at Washington State after completing an internship and residency in equine internal medicine.
In 1990, Crisman became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
“In reflecting on the many calls, texts, and emails over the past days, everyone has a ‘Crisman story,’ ” Swecker said. “I've observed the repeatable smiles and laughter as the story is shared. He practiced his craft as an educator, clinician, and researcher while bringing enjoyment and smiles to all of those around him. I will miss him dearly, but strive to never forget his passion for his family, his friends, and the members of the equine and veterinary communities.”
A "Celebration of Mark" will be held at Spring Tree Farm outside of Blacksburg on June 24 beginning at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks those who wish to remember Crisman to consider a gift in his memory to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Checks can be made payable to the Virginia Tech Foundation and mailed to VMCVM, 215 Duck Pond Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061, with "In memory of Dr. Mark Crisman" written on the check memo line. Gifts also can be made online with "In memory of Dr. Mark Crisman."
His wish was to leave a gift to the veterinary college to help others succeed as he had, and that fund will be established in his name.