I was invited to speak today because I decided to bequeath a portion of my estate to establish a scholarship for the students at the college. I have also regularly donated to the Small Animal EVP Award and the Class of 1984 Award.
Writing this speech felt like an assignment in a Speech Comm course. One of the suggested topics for this assignment—I mean, speech—was to reflect on what has changed since I graduated.
That made me remember the time I returned to the college about 20 years after I graduated to attend an awards ceremony. The event was being held in LAC 100 at 5 pm. I was in a solo practice, so I had to work in the morning until 1 pm, then make the 3-hour drive to Urbana.
I was running late, so I parked behind LAC 100 and came in the back door. At that time, the doors were mostly left unlocked.
I ran downstairs and into the locker room that I had used as a third- and fourth-year student. I hung my suit on the overhead pipes and removed my work clothes. I decided to visit the urinals but, much to my surprise, they were gone!
I could still see the outlines of where the urinals used to be. I stood there for a short time, then I asked myself: “Why would they do that?” It took a few seconds for me to answer my own question. Then I went to check the sign on the door.
So I guess the gender makeup of the student body is one thing that has changed a lot since I graduated!
Another suggested topic was “Why did I choose U of I Vet Med?”
I applied for veterinary school in the fall of 1979. Back then, if your home state had a veterinary school, there was zero chance that you’d be accepted as a first-year student at an out-of-state school. So I only applied to Illinois, and I'm really glad I did.
However, work force demand studies were predicting a surplus of veterinarians in 1984. When my class graduated, there were 2 to 3 students for every job opening. I think the majority of my class ended up working, just not necessarily in their ideal practice.
So that’s another situation that was very different from what we have today.
When I was a first- and second-year student in 1980, I paid the same tuition as the undergrads did: $2,500, or about $9,000 in today's dollars. (I apologize to the current students here if these numbers make you cry.)
In my third and fourth year, the University introduced a tiered tuition schedule. We were outraged! Students in the professional schools had to pay more than the undergraduates. And students in the medical and veterinary colleges paid more than students in the law school.
It seemed so unfair to me that that my fourth-year tuition was $4,000.
So there’s a third way that things today are not at all like what I experienced.
I’ve been in practice for 39 years, and I still enjoy it. But running a business caused me all sorts of stress. Now I have a staff that runs the day-to-day business, which frees up my time so I can focus on honing my skills and learning new ones. I would get bored if I limited myself to spays, neuters, and vaccines. The challenge of complicated cases is what keeps me going.
Years ago—OK, decades ago—I spent a lot of time here at the college, serving as a mentor for veterinary students through the ISVMA mentor program and participating in the college’s Small Animal Executive Veterinary Program. It was around that same time, in the early 2000s, that the State of Illinois started reducing the funding it sent to the college.
I had already been giving back to veterinary medicine through leadership roles in the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. But as I learned about the financial challenges facing veterinary students and about scholarships and other ways to support students, I started giving back financially. I realized that my own relatively inexpensive tuition was a gift that I received.
Now I look at philanthropy as protecting the future of veterinary medicine. I would like to make a veterinary education as accessible to those coming into the school today as I had back in my day.
As my practice has flourished, I have been able to give more to the Class of 1984 and EVP scholarship funds. Now as I enter the time of life where I have to deal with trusts and wills, I feel it is important to donate a portion of my estate to continue the excellence of veterinary education and training here at Illinois.
I wish for all students here today that you will also flourish in your careers, and one day have the same opportunity to give back to veterinary students of the future.