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History of the Davis-Michael Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program

The Davis- Michael Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program had an innocent start. A local attorney telephoned a member of the faculty in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences to inquire how a student would prepare to become a veterinarian. With that information, the lawyer, the Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences (now the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design), and the Vice-President of the West Virginia University Foundation began a plan to assist students in preparing for careers in veterinary medicine.

Initially, faculty in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences developed a list of in-coming freshmen for the fall 1998 and continuing upper classmen to receive scholarships. The list was approved by the lawyer on behalf of the donors and the first awards, equivalent to annual in-state tuition waivers, were made to five freshmen and to five upper-class members in each of the sophomore, junior and senior classes. The scholarships were known as pre-veterinary scholarships, because the donors wished to remain anonymous, while they were living. Simultaneously, money was allocated to fund a new class in companion animal care and a computer-assisted learning laboratory with 23 computing stations, three microscopes, and a teaching station.

image of Davis sister image of Davis sister On January 6, 1998, Vivian Davis Michael, one of the donors, died. Vivian’s estate was earmarked for the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. On January 3, 2001, Gladys Davis, the other donor and Vivian’s sister, died. Prior to her death, her gifts supported renovation of the student and faculty lounges and enclosure of the veranda at the College of Law, and the renovation of two theaters, which now bear their names in the College of Creative Arts. Gladys Davis’s estate provided funds for the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, College of Creative Arts and College of Law, plus the Wise Library.

Because the sisters wished to assure high quality of veterinary care, particularly for dogs and cats, in West Virginia, they instructed in their wills that the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences use the estates to construct a program that would provide premier education for students interested in careers in veterinary medicine. The funds were to supplement and not to replace existing resources for the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences.

The program as specified in the wills was to provide scholarships as a priority use of the funds. An Oversight Committee, as specified in the wills, was formed and later they approved the Davis-Michael Scholars Program in Pre-Veterinary Medicine. Support to the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design was also provided.

The program includes the undergraduate scholarships, who are named Davis-Michael Pre-Veterinary Scholars. The program will support undergraduate internships and seminars, Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences faculty development programs and enrichment; improvement of instructional facilities; technology and equipment; and library enhancement. Dr. Robert Dailey, Professor in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, was appointed Coordinator of the Program.

Scholarships are awarded to graduates of the Division of Animal and Nutritional Science who are attending veterinary school. The awards began in 1998 with five students being granted scholarships for their first year of veterinary school. Awards have been made annually since then. These students have been designated as Davis-Michael Veterinary Scholars.

At the College level, the Program was designed to provide endowed professorships for each of the college’s five academic divisions (Animal and Nutritional Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences, Forestry, Plant and Soil Sciences, and Resource Management). Appointees to endowed positions must have a record of distinguished academic or professional work. A candidate’s suitability is judged in national terms, as compared with colleagues in peer institutions. The appointee must be verified at the departmental and college levels and confirmed by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs before a nomination is submitted to the President. Two professors earned the designation of Davis-Michael Endowed Professor. Linda Butler, professor of entomology, became the Davis-Michael Professor for the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Robert Dailey, professor of reproductive physiology, became the Davis-Michael Professor for the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences.

On September 4, 2001, the College was renamed the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences in recognition of the Davis sisters and their mother, Estelle Conaway Davis, whose estate served as the basis for the trust. A graduate student office (GO54) within the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences was renovated and refurbished to serve as the office for the Davis-Michael Program. A bronze plaque recognizing the gift hangs on the outside wall before entering the office. The adjoining room (GO52) which had been designated the H.E. “Doc” Kidder Conference Room, was also carpeted and re-furbished to serve as a larger conference area for joint use by the Division and the Program.

The Davis-Michael Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program allows the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences to renew and expand on its commitment to provide excellent educational opportunities for students from West Virginia. Existence of the Program indirectly benefits all students in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences and in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.