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Awards / Honors

Celebrate! CSU Milestone: Bernard Rollin, 45 years

April 16, 2014
By Geneva Mueller

Bernard Rollin began seeking out other opportunities for employment when he realized that it wasn't safe to do laundry in the basement of his New York City apartment complex.

After receiving his doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University, the New York native and his wife were ready for a change. Willard Eddy, founder of the Department of Philosophy at Colorado State University, hired Rollin to teach philosophy in 1969. Rollin began teaching courses in medical ethics — the starting point of a role that would prove highly evolutionary.

Rollin quickly expanded his role and presence throughout the University. After 45 years at Colorado State, Rollin has taught courses and made significant strides in the fields of philosophy, biomedical science, animal science and bioethics. Now a University Distinguished Professor, his resume speaks to his influence on the evolution of the field of bioethics as a whole.

While at the gym one day, Rollin was approached by a pathology professor who knew of his expertise in medical ethics. His colleague asked if it would be possible to teach a similar course for students in the pre-veterinary realm. Rollin said he would be happy to teach the course if there was a book he could learn from; however, at the time, literature on the subject of ethics in veterinary medicine was literally non-existent. Rollin developed a curriculum and taught the first-ever course of its kind in the world.  Since 1978, this course has been a mandatory part of the veterinary curriculum here at Colorado State.  

Revolutionary legislation

Rollin was the chief architect of revolutionary federal legislation that passed in 1985 regarding animal welfare and the use of pain control methods for experimentation animals. When he began crafting this legislation at the state legislative level, there were no more than two academic articles on the subject; there are now over 12,000.

Rollin has been a featured lecturer more than 1,500 times on a wide range of topics within the realm of bioethics, in countries the world over.  He has consulted for the governments of the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and South Africa, as well as the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization on issues such as animal welfare policy, genetic engineering and the use of antimicrobials in food animals. Having published over 500 papers and 17 books, Rollin has proven himself as both an ally and a resource for the agricultural and veterinary communities.

After 45 years and an extremely successful career, Rollin has yet to be tempted by the idea of retirement. What motivates his desire to stay at CSU? The students.

“CSU students are without a doubt the best. They aren’t phony -- and there are a lot of phonies out there,” Rollin said. “They are willing to learn and they love to learn; they are fair-minded and open. I’ve been good to the University and they’ve been good to me.”

Colorful extracurricular life

In concert with his many professional accomplishments, Rollin has lived a colorful extracurricular life. He spent time as a competition-level weight lifter and was able to bench-press over 500 pounds; to this day, he still frequents the gym. Additionally, he has traveled over a quarter million miles on his motorcycle. He completed many of these miles with his son, a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders.  These adventures have been somewhat of a metaphorical journey for the pair.

“I’ll tell you, that’s a great way to bond with your son,” Rollin said. “Imagine getting to the point where you aren’t scared anymore. You can see so much better when you’re freed from the cage.”

His professional repertoire and academic accolades speak for themselves. But this, paired with his overall air of humility and quiet accomplishment, paint the picture of Bernard Rollin: a gentleman who truly forged the way for his field, found substantial success and asked for little in return.

“If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Rollin said of his 45 years of service to Colorado State University.

Celebrate! CSU Milestones honors University employees for years of service and retirement, and will be held this year on April 30, 4 p.m., in the Hilton Fort Collins Ballroom. Between now and then, Today @ Colorado State will be featuring selected employees Celebrating! Milestones this year.