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2017 Scholarship Dinner: Breaking Bread and Changing Lives

Never underestimate the power of people coming together to make a difference.

That was vividly in evidence the evening of Tuesday, February 21, at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Scholarship Dinner held at the University Club. Students, scholarship donors, faculty, staff members and members of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation Board of Directors gathered for a celebration of commitment and connection, with about 120 in attendance. The Foundation hosts the annual event.

The evening provides an opportunity for scholarship donors, who have invested in the future of veterinary medicine, and the students who will become the face of that future, to meet, talk, and combine their passion for the health and well-being of animals (and people) with a personal connection while sharing a meal.

The burden of student loans and the cost of higher education remain a critical concern, and private scholarships play a critical role in making an education in veterinary medicine accessible to more students. Thanks to the vision and commitment of a growing number of donors, more scholarships than ever are going to deserving recipients. This year, 221 CVM students received one or more scholarships, with 136 of them being donor-funded. In fact, a total of $329,462 — nearly half the total amount awarded — came from donor support.

Foundation board members Nat Hyde and Sandy Alford helped emcee the event, and CVM Dean Paul Lunn  recognized several distinguished guests and updated attendees on the latest developments at the college.  

Dean Lunn also made a special presentation to Joel and JoAnn Bacon, the parents of Charlotte Helen Bacon, one of the 20 children, along with six adult staff members, who died tragically at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Charlotte loved animals and hoped to one day be a veterinarian, which led members of the CVM community to establish the Charlotte Bacon Veterinary Education Scholarship. Dean Lunn presented the Bacons with an honorary letter of admission for Charlotte, as well as a special white lab coat embroidered with her name, just like the ones presented to incoming CVM students during a ceremony at the start of each academic year.

A growing tradition at each year’s scholarship dinner is the opportunity to hear the personal reflections of scholarship donors and students who have benefited from scholarship awards.

Retired CVM professor of avian medicine Laurie Degernes/Photo by Shaun King/King Photography

This year’s speakers were scholarship donor and retired CVM professor of avian medicine Laurie Degernes, and student scholarship recipients Olivia Myers from the class of 2018 and Catherine Bartholf from the class of 2019.

In her remarks, Degernes urged students to be open to new experiences and the possibilities that will become available to them as they progress with their education. She recounted her own story of originally planning a career in the dairy industry, but eventually finding her true niche in avian medicine — something she never would have anticipated. In fact, it was because of her love of both avian medicine and NC State that when she retired from the faculty, she established the Dr. Laurie Degernes Fellowship for Avian Medicine Education. In so doing, she hopes to create a lasting opportunity for new students to broaden their understanding of possible career choices.

Myers told of growing up in Tyro, North Carolina in Davidson County and being raised by “two of the biggest NC State fans on the planet.” With a love of animals and a love of the outdoors, she began volunteering in a local veterinarian’s office, and before long that had turned into a goal of one day attending the CVM. It was at NC State that she discovered her “passion for swine medicine.” She concluded her heartfelt remarks by saying “ I am beyond blessed to have found the goal that motivates me to work hard every day. But I couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you for giving me a chance. Thank you for making my dream a reality. Thank you for allowing me to wake up every morning excited about my future career. Thank you for what you have done for me, my classmates, this amazing institution and for the thousands of animals that will benefit from our care in the years to come.”

Bartholf, who grew up in Pittsboro, began by saying “It is my honor tonight to share with you my story and how the amazing generosity of our scholarship donors has positively impacted my life.” Like Myers, she grew up with a love of animals, and also decided to pursue veterinary medicine as a career while in high school. Mindful of the financial challenges presented by the cost of higher education, she depended heavily on scholarships for her undergraduate degree, and is deeply grateful for the support she is receiving at the CVM, where she is focused on a career in zoological medicine. Addressing the scholarship donors, she said “not only is it financially helpful to receive any kind of support, but I have also found it incredibly motivating for my studies.” She concluded saying how much it means to her “to have the support of others, besides my family members, believing that I will be successful as a veterinarian.”

It was definitely a night for believing in possibilities.

Photo gallery:

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine