College of Veterinary Medicine Alumnus Dr. Cyril Gerard Gay ’85 was one of three recipients to receive the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Presidential Rank Award.

Dr. Gay presently serves as senior national program leader of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Animal Health. With a career spanning more than 30 years in private and public veterinary practice, Dr. Gay is recognized as a leading authority in vaccinology and biodefense research.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded the winners and their service in the department. “It’s truly an honor to work alongside such dedicated civil servants, and I’m excited to see their excellent work recognized. USDA employees all across the country work hard every day to provide the best possible help to the people we serve.”

As chief of the Biotechnology Section, Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Dr. Gay developed procedures that led to the first product license and environmental release of a live recombinant vectored vaccine in the United States.

In the pharmaceutical industry with SmithKline Beecham and Pfizer, Dr. Gay led several cross-functional teams that successfully developed and registered six new veterinary vaccines. As director of Global Product Development for Pfizer Inc., Dr. Gay developed plans that interfaced research and development, clinical development, manufacturing, marketing, and product life-cycle management. Dr. Gay joined USDA-ARS in 2002 to lead the Animal Health National Program and its associated biodefense and global food security initiatives.

Among his primary career accomplishments, Dr. Gay also is recognized for:

  • Advancing the development of veterinary vaccines to protect farmers against priority animal diseases;
  • Establishing a biodefense research program for countering biological threats;
  • Spearheading the development of alternatives to antibiotics to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria;
  • Establishing strategic global research alliances to mitigate the spread of transboundary animal diseases;
  • Connecting research discoveries with successful technology transfers.

Only one percent of career USDA employees receive the Presidential Rank Award, which has two categories: Distinguished and Meritorious. Dr. Gay received the Meritorious Professional Award in recognition for his outstanding career accomplishments and, specifically, for his exceptional leadership in carrying out the mission of the USDA-ARS Animal Health National Program.

In addition to a DVM degree from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Gay also holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from George Washington University.


Dr. David Hayes ’67 has added another professional degree to his repertoire, completing the Doctor of Theology Degree at Andersonville Baptist Theological Seminary, graduating summa cum laude.

The Hueytown, Alabama, resident retired in 2004 as the senior member of a small animal veterinary medical practice with 10 doctors and 65 veterinary assistants after serving the profession for 35 years.

Prior to the theology degree, Dr. Hayes earned a Ph.D. in hospital administration in 1990 “to fill a need for administrative skills in managing a large veterinary medical practice.”

“As the son, grandson and brother of pastors, I have always been interested in theology,” Dr. Hayes said. “After retiring, I had abundant time to pursue that interest and completed three years of seminary at Andersonville Baptist Theological Seminary in Camilla, Georgia.

“I have not changed professions or felt a call to the Gospel ministry. I am, however, actively involved in my church as a teacher of a co-educational Sunday school class for seniors.”

Dr. Hayes and his wife, Jessica, recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary; they have two children and four grandchildren.

He is a member of the college’s Centennial Club and the university’s George Petrie Society and the 1856 Society. He says his “most treasured honor came when I was named a W. S. Bailey Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Veterinary Medicine.”


Dr. W.R. “Bill” Klemm ’58 recently authored a new book for parents and teachers, The Learning Skills Cycle. A Way to Rethink Educational Reform, published by Rowman and Littlefield.

Dr. Klemm is a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He studies basic and applied research on learning and memory and has published 19 books, many of them for lay audiences.

He is a regular writer on learning and memory for Psychology Today; maintains a blog site, “Improve Your Learning and Memory” (; and provides teachers with lectures and workshops on learning skills.

“The ideas in this most recent book demonstrate how students are not adequately taught the learning skills necessary for superior academic achievement,” he said. “This book identifies and explains those skills and frames them as interacting in a mutually interacting and reinforcing cycle that I call the Learning Skills Cycle.”

In 2011, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Auburn University.


Dr. Lydia Staggs, a 2004 alumna of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, has landed her dream job at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

Dr. Staggs has joined the team of veterinarians caring for the animals at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Orlando.

She brings more than 14 years of veterinary experience to SeaWorld, having previously worked at Bayside Hospital for Animals, Gulf World in Panama City, and Dolphin Discovery.

Dr. Staggs says a visit to a zoological facility as a child is what inspired her to work with marine animals. “I grew up on my grandfather’s farm in the land-locked state of Kentucky. After an encounter with a dolphin at a marine park, I fell in love with marine mammals.”

“SeaWorld has rescued more than 31,000 animals and inspires millions of people around the world to take action to protect our planet,” Dr. Staggs said. “I am honored to be part of a team that’s making a difference each and every day—both in our parks and out in the community. It has always been a dream for me to be part of the SeaWorld family.

”What’s a typical day like for Dr. Staggs? “Each day is never the same. That’s why I love my job. I work with a variety of species—from birds and turtles to walruses and whales. It keeps life interesting and I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

One of her favorite memories so far at SeaWorld has been the opportunity to work with walrus calves, Ginger and Aku. “It has been so much fun watching them grow. Ginger was born here at SeaWorld Orlando, and Aku is a rescued walrus calf from Alaska. Watching the two calves learn from each other and engage with each other has been such an amazing experience.”

When she’s not at work, Dr. Staggs spends time with her husband, Justin (AU ’04), a son, and two rescue pets. She has also written two novels, Shamar and Rea, and is working on her third in the series.

Dr. Staggs’ best advice for those who aspire to work with animals. “Keep chasing your dreams. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. At SeaWorld and at other animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations, together, we’re making a positive impact on species that are endangered. Giving animals a second chance at life means the world to me.”


Dr. Keri R iddick, who received her DVM from Auburn in 2000, recently was elected president of the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association.

In a recent interview with Georgia Veterinarian magazine, Dr. Riddick said “being involved in the GVMA is a way for me to give back to this incredible profession in hopes of making a difference for our Georgia veterinarians.”

Dr. Riddick previously worked in veterinary emergency medicine, later at a small animal hospital in Birmingham and ultimately purchased Benning Animal Hospital in Columbus, Georgia.

Dr. Riddick has been a general practitioner and co-owner of Benning Animal Hospital since 2008.

Raised in an Air Force family, Dr. Riddick grew up in Louisiana, Colorado, Florida, Alabama and Germany. Her desire to care for animals and then become a veterinarian was always a driving force in her life.

“I remember bringing animals home when I was a girl that I thought were lost and my mom would help me find their owner or a new home for them,” she says. “When I was 10 years old, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local animal hospital where I worked in the kennels, observed surgeries, and aided in the exam rooms until I graduated from high school.”

While at Auburn, Dr. Riddick worked at a hog farm and managed a barn of horses at summer camp. That passion continues with her work at Benning Animal Hospital. “I love educating owners on the proper care of their pets and seeing the results in the long, fun-filled, healthy and happy lives of their pets.”

Dr. Riddick and her husband, Don, an attorney, have two Italian Spinones named Ogie and Elena, an English Setter named Porsche, and two horses named Ben and Ember.


Dr. Carolyn Henry ’90 recently was officially named dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, a position she held on an interim basis.

An oncology researcher, Dr. Henry earned the DVM in 1990 from Auburn and practiced small animal and emergency medicine in Alabama and Georgia before returning to Auburn to complete an oncology residency and a Master of Science degree.

She is one of four Auburn veterinary alumni who serve as dean of veterinary programs: Dr. Calvin Johnson ’86, Auburn; Dr. Jason Johnson ’03, Lincoln Memorial; and Dr. Eleanor Greene ’73, Texas A&M.

“I am truly humbled to serve as the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine,” Dr. Henry said. “This is not a responsibility I take lightly. I look forward to continuing the support of our mission to teach, heal, discover and serve.”