Dr. Charles W. Raker, one of the founding fathers of Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, died on February 16 at age 93.
Dr. Raker grew up in Daylesford in Chester County, PA. He graduated from Penn Vet in 1942.
Dr. Raker spent eight years in private practice following graduation, but in 1950, responded to a request from his alma mater to take the position of assistant professor of veterinary medicine to boost its livestock and large-animal curriculum.
When New Bolton Center opened in 1952, Dr. Raker took a “crash course” in surgery at Cornell University, with a focus on large-animal surgery, to help fill a void created by the loss of two veterinary surgeons. He was appointed chairman of the then-department of surgery in 1956. In 1967, three years after the construction of the School’s first large-animal hospital on the New Bolton Center campus, he was the recipient of the Lawrence Baker Sheppard Endowed Chair in veterinary surgery—the first in the nation and funded through the generosity of Hanover Shoe Farms, the famous Standardbred breeding and training facility in central Pennsylvania. It was an appointment of which Dr. Raker was tremendously proud.
Dr. Raker was a Charter Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, an organization he helped found in 1965. Over the years he served as its Examination Committee chair, chair of the Board of Regents, vice president and finally as president from 1975-1976.
During the almost 30 years Dr. Raker served as chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton Center, he introduced new surgical techniques and inspired many.
In 1985, the Charles W. Raker Chair in Equine Surgery was established. The Chair honored Dr. Raker for his “seminal contributions to equine surgery and his penchant for mentoring aspiring young faculty.” It is held today by Dr. Dean W. Richardson, chief of New Bolton Center’s Section of Surgery and a beneficiary of Dr. Raker’s teaching and mentoring expertise.
In addition to honors from Penn Vet, Dr. Raker was recognized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in 2000 with its Distinguished Educator Award. In 2007, he received the American College of Veterinary Surgeons’ esteemed Foundation Legends Award, given to “an individual who has developed a surgical or diagnostic procedure of significant value, proven by becoming the treatment or test of choice for a given condition.” The AAEP bestowed its very prestigious Sage Kester Beyond the Call Award in 2010.
Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, dean of the Veterinary School, said, “I was extremely fortunate to get to know Charlie when I became Dean—although it was my loss that I was not taught by him as a veterinary student. In addition to benefiting from his warmth, wisdom and connection to Penn Vet and especially its students, I am grateful that he shared generously his insights into leadership, faculty and the equine community. My favorite memory is of him receiving the award from the AAEP, when the enormous audience expected a frail, elderly figure to say a few words—and he gave a vigorous, patented Raker lecture urging them to action. It was very special, vintage Charlie and wonderful to see the equine veterinary world share what we at Penn Vet have been able to enjoy for decades.”
Dr. Raker is survived by his sons, Edward and Charles, Jr.; three grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.
A memorial is being planned at the New Bolton Center. Details will be published in Almanac.
Memorial donations may be made to either the Charles Raker Endowed Opportunity Scholarship Fund or the Tamworth Fund: c/o Jane Simone, Penn Veterinary Medicine, New Bolton Center, 382 West Street Rd., Kennett Square, PA 19348.