A Champion of Cats; A Friend of All
Dr. Jim Richards, or “jimbob” as he affectionately signed off in his emails, has left us. Sadly, the gregarious, always smiling, always positive, always there for everyone veterinarian and ambassador of the veterinary profession was tragically lost to us due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Together with Dr. Tom Nelson, he was a spokesperson for the KNOW Heartworms campaign on behalf of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Heartworm Society underwritten by an educational grant from Pfizer Animal Health. He was a vibrant individual and will be missed by all of us who knew him personally and professionally, and those who relied on his sage advice regarding feline health care.
As one of the top feline experts in the United States, Dr. Richards used his many hats to educate the public and veterinarians about all things related to cat health. He was Director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CUCVM), past-president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and editor-in-chief of Cat Watch, a publication of CUCVM.
We worked with him on several initiatives to educate the public and veterinarians including “Healthy Cats for Life” and most recently, the “KNOW Heartworms” campaign. This campaign deals with the relatively obscure public topic of feline heartworms. The campaign required a complex discourse with many experts in feline heartworms and general practitioners.
As was his practice with all his work, Dr. Richards did everything he could to educate himself on the topics he was presenting to veterinarians and the media.
When the campaign launched he, along with Dr. Tom Nelson, president of the American Heartworm Society, was ready to tackle the issue.
On Sunday, April 22nd, a feature article appeared in The Star-Ledger, a northern New Jersey newspaper with a readership of more than 1.7 million. The day of that interview he taped a segment for “The Pet Stop,” a popular cable pet show with Dr. Brian T. Voynick, a fellow veterinarian. He had also recently conducted an interview for “Cat Chat” on Martha Stewart’s Sirius Channel.
Always the consummate spokesperson, Dr. Richards never turned down a media interview. He also spoke on other topics on CBS News Saturday Morning and CNN Science and Technology Week. He knew the key to sharing messages dear to his heart was forming lasting relationships.
He spoke with dozens of people every day communicating about cat health with veterinarians, reporters, and pet owners and used his natural communications skills to teach so many about complex issues about the health and well-being of cats. His legacy to foster the well-being of cats began as he would call it, “growing up as a farm kid” in Ohio, and he didn’t forget that folksy style of communicating that made everyone feel comfortable on-camera and off.
Amy Shojai, past-president of the Cat Writers’ Association and published book author said, “I became a cat writer because of Jim Richards. He always took the time to answer so many of my questions and was patient to the nth degree. If I told him about a problem with a sick cat, he would tell me a story about one of his cats. All of us will sorely miss him.”
Steve Dale, a nationally syndicated pet writer and a syndicated pet radio show host, said, “I can’t think of anyone that I’ve interviewed more, and did more for the health and well-being of cats. I was involved with him with so many projects, and he never said an outright ‘no’ to anything.”
Dr. Richards was born in Richmond, Indiana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. After graduating, he taught in the department of mathematics at the university. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree Cum Laude from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Columbus, Ohio. He served as an associate veterinarian at Eastside Dog and Cat Hospital in Chesterland, Ohio and later provided relief and veterinary emergency services at three other veterinary clinics before accepting the position of assistant director at Cornell in 1991. He became director in 1997.
Activities outside of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine included a longtime association with the AAFP, not only as leader of the board as president, but chairing numerous programs and panels. He also held memberships in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); The New York State Veterinary Medical Society (NYSVMS); The Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the Cat Writers’ Association. His honor society memberships included the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and The National Veterinary Honor Society of Phi Zeta.
His publishing credits included numerous textbook chapters and published journal articles. He was author of The ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats, Chronicle Books, 2000 and Consulting Editor and chapter contributor to The Cornell Book of Cats, 2nd edition, 1997. Dr. Richards’ off-campus lectures included continuing education seminars for veterinarians at national veterinary conferences, state and local associations and frequent presentations regarding feline health-related issues to cat owners/breeders.
Dr. Richards’ passions included bicycling, motorcycling, hiking/backpacking, and kayaking.
He leaves behind his wife, Anita Fox Richards, his two sons, Jesse and Seth, and mother, Marion Richards. He set the tone for all of us every day with his view that, “we can work everything out.” Yes, jimbob, you will be missed by many. We will remember to smile because of you. We will remember to pause for the sunshine because of you. And we will remember too, that we can work it all out. Goodbye our friend and our colleague. You will be missed.
Memorials in Dr. Richards’ name may be made to the Cornell Feline Health Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY 14853