“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
One of the most inspiring events that I have the privilege to oversee in my role as dean is our Evening of Gratitude, an annual celebration that brings together our generous donors with student scholarship recipients. It is a night that reminds everyone in attendance the value of philanthropy in the lives of our students. This was another record year for us, as we distributed $2.5 million in scholarships and another $4.2 million in grants for our students. This level of support is another reason why we are #1 ranked in veterinary medicine. We are deeply grateful for the generous support of our individual, association and corporate scholarship donors who made these new and continuing awards possible.
At the event, I highlighted some of those donors, including new scholarships in One Health from Dr. Bernadine Cruz (UC Davis, SVM Class of 1982) and her friend Megan Lewis. Many of our alumni support scholarships, especially through their reunion class celebrations; we now have 25 classes with endowed scholarships.
Some scholarships honor a loved one, friend, or an animal patient who was treated in our hospital. After losing her longtime friend and colleague, Jan Boynton felt the best way to honor her memory was to establish the R. Darlene Murphy Endowed Memorial Scholarship. During the 35 years they had worked as nurses at Stanford Hospital, they developed a close friendship and shared a joy in their pets. Donna (my wife) and I have created an endowment recognizing student leadership. The Rosenthal Fellowships, established by Mr. Jerry Rosenthal, a member of my Dean’s Leadership Council, and his daughter provides support to students enrolled in the Veterinary Scientist Training Program.
This year, we provided a very meaningful award for the first time, from the Whitney “Dr. Joy” Engler Financial Assistance Fund, made possible from a generous endowment established in 2015 by Dr. Michael Floyd (UC Davis, SVM Class of 1961) and Nancy Ehrlich. Whitney was weeks away from fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian before her life was ended much too soon. Our hearts remain heavy after her loss and our memories of that moment in time became fresh at the ceremony. Whitney’s last night with us was at the Evening of Gratitude event last year. She was a bright star and a STAR student seeking out opportunities to build on her interest in animal behavior.
Last year we witnessed our students, staff and faculty coming together to grieve her loss and find some solace in searching for her missing animals, knowing how much having them back safe and sound would bring peace to our family and hers. Whitney is and will always be part of our shared journey. She will come back to us in our memories, visiting us in our quiet moments–perhaps in the presence of animals or in a solitary moment of reflection. Whitney’s parents Virginia and Dennis, and close friend, Dr. Anjolie Daryani (UC Davis, SVM Class of 2015) were at the event to honor her memory and inspired all with their remarkable strength and grace.
Our student speaker for the night was second year student, Jose Guerrero Cota, who represented with his poignant words the meaning and impact of student scholarships. Jose is the recipient of a scholarship, established from an endowment by Robert and Colleen Haas to honor Francisco Pancho Lopez for his lifelong dedication to equine health and well-being. As Jose spoke, he highlighted the career of Pancho as a world class horseman and the impact that he is having as a mentor for Jose. Pancho was in attendance at the event, smiling broadly as Jose spoke. Jose also spoke about his parent’s difficult journey from Mexico and their life-long desire to make a better life for their children. While his parents could not attend the event, they would have been proud to see Jose standing before the audience expressing for all of our students how scholarships change lives and inspire them to honor those that love and supported them in their quest to become veterinarians.
The Evening of Gratitude was a reminder for all of us about the power of giving, in the lives of our students and in the hearts of those that provided them support. We will never forget the trust our donors place in us with their investment in our students–future leaders in veterinary medicine and science that will make the world a better place through their good works and compassionate care for animals, people, and our planet.