Robert Lee Pyle, professor emeritus of cardiology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, died Saturday, Sept. 16 in Blacksburg. He was 77.

A founding employee and administrator of the veterinary college and member of the Virginia Tech community from 1981 until he retired in 2007, Pyle made significant contributions to research in cardiopulmonary diseases such as congenital heart defects and pulmonary hypertension, and to the college’s instructional, clinical, and continuing education programs.

 “Dr. Pyle was a key member of Dean Talbot's startup administrative team. He served as advisor to the college's 'Citizens' Committee,' especially its chair, Bob Peters, who worked tirelessly in Richmond for political support for the college,” said Peter Eyre, dean emeritus of the college. “He supervised the development of the original facilities, including some of the private fundraising, and was responsible for establishing the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He was an excellent cardiologist and a highly respected clinician and teacher.”

“The present accomplishments and public service of the college are achieved by building on the foundations established in the past by individuals such as Dr. Pyle,” said Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Pyle was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1940. He graduated from Penn State University in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary studies. Pyle earned a V.M.D. degree in 1965 from the School of Veterinary Medicine and a master’s degree in cardiology in 1972 from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He then conducted an NIH post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and spent a year in private clinical practice.

Before joining Virginia Tech as professor and associate dean of public programs at the veterinary college, Pyle served as associate professor of cardiology at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine from 1975-1978 and at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine from 1978-1981.  

Pyle was considered one of the “founding fathers” of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), the international certifying organization for veterinary specialists in cardiology, large animal internal medicine, neurology, oncology, and small animal internal medicine, and became a diplomate of ACVIM in 1974. He and his wife Inge helped create the ACVIM Forum, which is now one of the world’s leading continuing education conferences in veterinary medicine. He served in many leadership positions on the ACVIM Board of Regents and was honored with the organization’s “Distinguished Service Award” in 2006 for his exemplary and sustained service.

Pyle was also a member of numerous professional societies and organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Phi Zeta, and others.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors recognized Pyle for his service to the university with the title of Professor Emeritus in August of 2007.

“Dr. Pyle joined our college early in its history and was a crucial figure in the development of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital,” said Gerhardt Schurig, professor of immunology and former dean of the college. “I remember him as a colleague with a clear vision, ability to get things done, and a tireless dedication to the college.”

Pyle is survived by his wife of 51 years, Inge; son and daughter-in-law, Eric Pyle and Kate Savage Pyle; sons, Chris and Andre Pyle; grandchildren, Josh and Molly Pyle; sister and husband, Carol “Sis” and Jimmy Broz; sister and husband, Roberta and Dave Banks; and five nieces and nephews and their children.

A memorial service will be held at Blacksburg United Methodist Church at 111 Church St. SE, Blacksburg, 24060, on Monday, Sept. 25, at 11 a.m., followed by a visitation/reception in the church’s Wisner Building. A graveside service will be held at the Memorial Gardens of the New River Valley on North Main Street in Blacksburg after the reception.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Roanoke Rescue Mission at 402 4th St. SE, Roanoke, VA 24013, or the Blacksburg United Methodist Church at P.O. Box 931, Blacksburg, VA 24063.

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