Paying it Forward
Helping vet students with scholarships
By Laurie Brickley
Some have traveled the same path as a veterinary student and know the difficulties of financing an education. Others have animals that have received medical care at one of the college’s hospitals and are grateful for the care their animals received. What many seem to express is the need to “pay it forward.” Either way, this group of thousands of dedicated donors have focused their giving on providing student scholarships.
As alumni donor and dairy veterinarian Dr. Dick Huston puts it, “Scholarship giving is a way for me to give back.”
According to Bill Venne, director of development and alumni relations, the majority of scholarships are awarded to College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) students in their fourth year of studies. The average gift is $4,500. This past year, generous donors contributed $579,000 for 76 scholarships.
“Our donors are interested in this one-on-one way of giving, and we have seen substantial increases in this area in the past couple of years,” says Venne. “Our hope is that we can grow this funding area to help students in their first year, second year, and third year as well as fourth and for all graduating classes to create a scholarship for future students.”
Huston says he wants to pay it forward for a young person studying in an area that has provided such a happy life for him.
“I am so grateful for my education,” says Huston. “No one in my family had ever gone to college before me. I know personally what an education can do for a person.”
Huston knew at a young age that he wanted to work with cows. His education at the CVM made that dream a possibility. For 20 years, Huston worked in a traditional group practice in Faribault, Minnesota, and he still consults with dairy practices around the country.
“We are so fortunate in this country to have access to a quality education—that can inspire and change the world,” he says. He and his late wife created nine scholarships for students at a number of academic institutions, including a second one at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
One recipient of Huston’s generosity is Brian Stampfl, who is studying bovine medicine. One of Stampfl’s earliest memories is sitting on a fence the day the dairy cows were sold on his family’s farm in Verona, Wisconsin. After studying biology, chemistry, and business finance as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Stampfl knew he wanted to continue his studies in veterinary medicine.
“I am so grateful to the Hustons for providing this scholarship. And it is going right to tuition,” he says. “It eases the burden.” Stampfl says he has also been fortunate to receive scholarships from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Education, Minnesota Dairy Herd Improvement Association, and Zoetis, but still has had to take out additional loans to fund his education.
“I plan to work with a financial advisor to figure this all out, but honestly, it is really hard to comprehend that I will be paying so much back,” he says. Upon graduation, Stampfl would like to work in a practice that serves a large proportion of clients with dairy and beef cattle.
“I would really love to be involved in helping farmers manage their calves and heifers, as well as writing disease detection and treatment protocols,” he says. “I want to be part of improving agricultural practices to provide adequate nutrition to our population with the lowest environmental impact possible.”
I tell each recipient that they have an obligation when receiving a scholarship: You have to pay it forward.
Huston does have one caveat for his scholarship recipients: “I tell each recipient that they have an obligation when receiving a scholarship: You have to pay it forward. You have to get involved in the community you are in to make things better. You have a duty to use that knowledge in the community.”
CVM students are selected for scholarships by the awards and scholarship committee, a faculty group consisting of two members of each of the college’s departments. Karen Nelson, director of admissions, says that students are matched up with donors who have a particular interest in an area of veterinary medicine and wish to provide scholarships in those areas.
“There are scholarships designed for students who wish to pursue surgery, oncology, ecosystem health, food animal medicine, companion animal medicine, rural vet careers—you name it,” she says. “Some donors choose to support students with a strong record of academic achievement. Others support students who have demonstrated a dedication to leadership and community service.”
That process paired donors Bob and Diane Coderre with fourth-year student Kaitlin Marg. The Coderres were interested in providing a scholarship for a student who wanted to work with alpacas, as they have seven of their own on their hobby farm.
Bob Coderre is a 1970 U of M graduate who also relied on student loans and scholarships to fund his studies in business at the university. He remembers an alpaca workshop at the CVM that proved invaluable for him, and is grateful for the care his alpacas have received at the Veterinary Medical Center’s large animal hospital. For him, “a payback to the U” seemed important.
“We both share concerns that practicing rural medicine may not appeal to many vet college grads, but the need is there,” Coderre says. “We wanted to create a scholarship for those interested in working in a rural environment and with alpacas.”
Kaitlin Marg grew up on a hobby farm in Winona, Minnesota, with three alpacas.
“Not many veterinarians know about alpacas,” she says. Her scholarship gift from the Coderres will help fund her dream of practicing preventive medicine with cattle, small ruminants, and alpacas. This summer she began her rotations with alpacas and had a great experience.
“Thanks to Bob and Diane Coderre for this amazing gift,” she says. “Because vet school is so expensive, any amount lessens the load, and I am so grateful this program exists.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016/Winter 2017 issue of Profiles magazine, the College of Veterinary Medicine's bi-annual publication for alumni, donors, and other friends of the college.