Talbot Gift Invests in ISU Veterinary Medicine Graduate Students

Thanks to the generous gift of over $250,000 from Lora and Russ Talbot of Belmond, Iowa, the research program at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine has been impacted in a big way. Their contribution created the fully endowed Lora and Russ Talbot Graduate Fellowship in Veterinary Medicine.

“It is crucial for the research program at the College of Veterinary Medicine to attract and recruit high-achieving, outstanding, and strongly motivated students,” Russ stated. “Funding by our Talbot Graduate Fellowship will positively impact the ability to recruit talented sought-after students, regardless of their research area or department. We believe that flexibility is important; eligibility for our fellowship is open-ended and not limited to a specific area of research and study.”

Lora added, “We want to help reduce student debt by providing financial support to graduate students. At the same time, we are promoting Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s initiative for ‘Moving Students Forward,’ which is one of the university’s top goals.”

Key breakthroughs in animal and human health are happening all of the time, as a result of the research conducted at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Many of these important discoveries would not be possible without the help of a dedicated team of graduate students who conduct and analyze this research. Lora noted, “Helping to ease their financial burden will allow them to directly focus on their research area.”

Dr. Lisa K. Nolan, Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, believes that “Building our research program is critical to the recruitment of outstanding faculty, enhancement of the college’s reputation, and continued recognition of the college as a research leader in veterinary medicine. Key to our success is the recruitment of outstanding graduate students. The generous and visionary gift provided by the Talbots enables us to do so.”

“As long-term donors and dedicated supporters of Iowa State, we want our contributions to make a difference,” Russ said. “We actively seek out areas and situations where the needs are the greatest. We try to direct our resources to where they can have the most impact.”

Russ continued, “We became more acutely aware that graduate fellowships play a key role and are vitally important in the current and future success of the college. Over the years, we have had a multitude of positive experiences and meaningful feedback from our Russell G. and Lora L. Talbot Scholars in Veterinary Medicine Scholarship Program. We projected that a logical extension and the next step in that approach was to provide significant support in the graduate area of veterinary medicine at Iowa State. This led us to establish the Lora and Russ Talbot Graduate Fellowship in Veterinary Medicine.”

“Establishing a fellowship at the graduate level is a special opportunity to support and promote the future of veterinary medicine,” Lora stated. “Donations for graduate fellowships can have a substantial impact on students, faculty, and the college. We view the contributions to our Talbot Graduate Fellowship as investments in the further development of talented and superior students who have demonstrated that they are the ‘best of the best.’ We want to help them pursue their dreams and fulfill their goals.”

At the time the Talbots were funding the endowment for their graduate fellowship, they became aware that matching funds were available from the Presidential Graduate Student Initiative for certain contributions designated as expendable funds. Their fellowship funding quickly became twofold. Knowing the college would benefit from those matching funds was a strong and important incentive for them to leverage their contributions of expendable funds. They contributed more than $150,000 to create a fully endowed fund for long-term support of the Talbot Graduate Fellowship, as well as over $100,000 in expendable funds to provide current and short-term impact, which supplied the dollars for fellowship awards to be made immediately rather than having to wait until endowment earnings sustained the awards.

As part of President Steven Leath’s initiative for “Moving Students Forward,” the Graduate Student Recruitment Program is a two-year program to foster excellence and growth in Iowa State’s graduate programs by incentivizing academic colleges to recruit and enroll additional high-quality graduate students in doctoral and research-oriented master’s degree programs. The designated expendable funds portion of the Lora and Russ Talbot Graduate Fellowship was eligible for the match.

According to Dr. Qijing Zhang, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, “The Talbot Fellowship has allowed the college to establish a new program for attracting outstanding graduate students. It greatly enhances the quality and experience of graduate education and is critical for the college to leverage additional funding to support graduate studies.”

The three inaugural recipients of the Lora and Russ Talbot Graduate Fellowship in Veterinary Medicine are Samantha Hau (DVM 2014), Alyona Avdonina (DVM 2014), and Sarah Wiechert (DVM 2013).

Dr. Hau is working on her PhD through the Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine Graduate Program. She stated, “It is an honor to be selected as one of the first Talbot Graduate Fellowship recipients. The fellowship has enabled me to continue working toward my graduate degree and future research goals. Lora and Russ are wonderful, and I am so thankful to be a part of this new adventure with them.”

Dr. Avdonina is a Veterinary Pathology graduate student. “It is humbling to receive such personal, generous support at this stage of an academic career. Lora and Russ’s continued and expanding investment in veterinary education is inspiring. I am very grateful for their dedication to the future of our profession,” she added.

Dr. Wiechert is a graduate student in Veterinary Clinical Sciences. She served as an intern for one year and is now a resident in equine internal medicine at the college. She noted, “Lora and Russ have given me the opportunity to manifest my ambition. Words cannot express my gratitude for that.”

Lora and Russ observed “We are extremely pleased with and especially proud of the three initial recipients of our graduate fellowship awards. We could not have asked for more top notch students than what they are. We applaud them for what they have already achieved. We enthusiastically cheer them on for what they will do in the future. We believe each will be making major contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine.”

Lora and Russ did not attend Iowa State, but they are very good friends and supporters of the university. Their giving and volunteer service have impacted the University as a whole, including the College of Veterinary Medicine, ISU Foundation, ISU Alumni Association, and “The Fashion Show” in the College of Human Sciences.

Through their Russell G. and Lora L. Talbot Scholars in Veterinary Medicine Scholarship Program which provides a four-year scholarship to each student, 16 recipients have become Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and seven more are on their way. In 2013 they also established the Lora and Russ Talbot ISU Alumni Association Cardinal & Gold Scholarship in Veterinary Medicine.

In addition, they have been major donors to the Dr. W. Eugene and Linda Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center and the Hixson-Lied Small Animal Hospital. For the past two years they have sponsored the college’s annual Scholarship Recognition Program & Reception. Both Lora and Russ serve on the College of Veterinary Medicine Dean’s Fundraising Advisory Council.

Dean Nolan concluded, “The Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine extends its utmost thanks to Lora and Russ Talbot for their tremendous generosity in making a difference in the lives of students.” 

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