Pete deLaubenfels wants everyone to know that veterinary medicine is about more than dogs and cats. A million dollars says people will listen to him.
The 87-year-old Corvallis resident gave $1 million to Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to support programs that focus on the connection between human and animal health, OSU announced Wednesday.
During his career, deLaubenfels has been a farmer, teacher, motorcycle policeman, amateur magician and expert marksman. Now he has discovered a passion for a study that he wants more people to know about: how animal health and human health are tied closely together.
The gift establishes an endowed Comparative Health Research and Education Fund through the OSU Foundation to support student education, research and public outreach about human-animal health issues.
He has requested that some of the money be specifically used to spread the word, through outreach and marketing, about the impact veterinary medicine has on human and animal health.
“It’s not very often donors think of that aspect,” said Jennifer Milburn, director of development for the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It’s a very important field,” deLaubenfels said, “and it’s kind of a crusade on my part for people to know veterinary medicine isn’t just taking care of a little pet.”
Not that deLaubenfels has anything against pets, he quickly added. He and his late wife, Leila, were dog owners for years. But he believes that the connection between animal health and human health is vastly important yet poorly recognized.
For instance, OSU is active in the study of zoonotic diseases, which can be transferred between animals and humans. Researchers also study cancer, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and other conditions. The college performs tests for the state of Oregon for the presence of the West Nile Virus, rabies and avian bird flu. It collaborates with other state agencies to provide protection against agri-terrorism and bio-terrorism.
One faculty member, Stuart Helfand, is working with Oregon Health & Science University to study similarities between cancer in dogs and humans. Another, cardiologist David Sisson, uses methods developed for humans — such as pacemakers and non-invasive techniques — to treat dogs.
Cyril Clarke, the dean of OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said deLaubenfels’ gift will help give more exposure to the expertise of the college and will support student scholarships and fellowships and provide seed money for research.
deLaubenfels is a frequent visitor to the College of Veterinary Medicine, where the technology astounds him.
“That place is fabulous,” he said. “I don’t see how anybody could claim there’s anything better.”
The self-described “science fan” said ongoing funding is crucial to research and innovation.
“That’s the purpose of setting up an endowment; it doesn’t just quit really quick,” he said. “Most of these things require time, and that means stable funding.”
This isn’t the first time OSU has benefitted from the deLaubenfelses’ generosity.
Years ago, the couple essentially donated their 300-plus acre farm to the OSU Foundation. The transaction helped enable the College of Veterinary Medicine to move from a two-year program, in which students had to do part of their studies at Washington State University, to a four-year program.
The gift also changed things for the deLaubenfelses, who made the college their favored gift recipient.
The Magruder Hall atrium was named after them in honor of the couple’s generosity.
Pete deLaubenfels just wants the endowment to act as seed money to encourage others to contribute to the college.
“I think it’s a really important project,” he said. “I’m hoping that the endowment takes off and they can really do some worthwhile research.”
The deLaubenfels gift is part of The Campaign for OSU, which has raised $600 million toward a goal of $625 million for OSU.