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2018 Scholarship Dinner: Fighting for Education

Kate Thompson was used to fighting for the education she wanted and deserved.

Growing up in a modest Mississippi town saddled with underfunded schools, she has long juggled extra classes and part-time jobs and community service amid financial strain.

It wasn’t just all part of a game plan to get into her top college choice and be able stay there. It was necessary — and punishing.

“I felt like I was drowning,” Thompson told the audience at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s annual scholarship dinner Tuesday night, “and I began to feel doubt.”  

Thanks to scholarship donors, Thompson said, she developed a confidence in herself she had started to lose.

“Now, I don’t have to fight for my education anymore,” she said.

Thompson, of the Class of 2019, was one of the featured speakers at the scholarship dinner, hosted by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation. It’s an opportunity for students to express deep gratitude for those who have given so much to help them succeed.

The Michele M. and Ross M. Annable Scholarship covers up to half the cost of tuition and fees for DVM students. Because of it, Thompson has been able to worry less about money and focus more on her passions — the health of small animals, volunteering in animal shelters and participating in student service organizations.

Kate Thompson, Class of 2019. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine.

She’s not alone. At the dinner, Laura Nelson, CVM associate dean and director of academic affairs, said that this past year 220 CVM students had been awarded $728,000 in academic scholarships, with more than $350,000 of that coming from private donors. CVM Dean Paul Lunn pointed out that, with an average student loan debt of about $110,000, the impact of scholarship donors is bigger than ever.

“We couldn’t do it without you,” said Nelson.

The Class of 2020’s Samantha Lin, a recipient of the Dr. James Edgar Smallwood Scholarship for Student Excellence, told the dinner audience that after graduating from Harvard University, she had been set on going to a different college of veterinary medicine. That was until she closely compared costs and academic reputations and realized NC State was the best choice.

“NC State was the right decision,” she said. “I’m indebted to our magnanimous donors who relieve the stress of student debt so we can pursue a career that is motivated not by income, but by rewarding work.”

Samantha Lin, Class of 2020, with Dr. James Edgar Smallwood. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine.

A big highlight of the night is students mingling with the names behind the scholarships — some meeting for the first time — all sharing a strong appreciation for altruism. Among the event’s special guests were Joel and JoAnn Bacon, the parents of Charlotte Helen Bacon, one of 26 people killed at the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Inspired by Charlotte’s dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian, members of the CVM community established the Charlotte Bacon Veterinary Education Scholarship in her honor.

Raleigh veterinarian and CVM Class of 1994 graduate Kady Gjessing, who recently gave nearly $3.7 million to the CVM, the largest donation from an alumnus, spoke about the Katherin Wolfe Maughan Endowed Scholarship, established by her mother in honor of Gjessing’s grandmother. The scholarship assists veterinary students who are usually 25 and older with educational expenses.

Gjessing, a member of the NCVMF board, challenged students to, “give back to the place that has given so much to you,” adding that she is committed to establishing a scholarship for future generations of students, for which she would match alumni donations up to $25,000.

“This is a family, guys,” Gjessing said. “And families help each other.”

Give to CVM Alumni Giving Back, (be sure to leave “Alumni Scholarship Challenge” in the comments.) 

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