A Fortune for Animal Medicine: Behind a Huge Campus Gift to a Vet School

When wealthy donors adore animals, veterinary schools have been known to feel the love. That’s the case for a $39 million gift the Stanton Foundation just made to Ohio State.

Ohio State University has the fifth-ranked veterinary medicine college, and one of the oldest, in the country. It also happens to be where the late Frank Stanton, a media mastermind behind the rise of CBS, got his masters and doctorate back in the 1930s in psychology. Before Stanton passed away in 2006, he loved animals, especially dogs (his last dog, a Corgi named Annie, is cared for by his foundation).

Stanton’s devotion has proven beneficial to OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which just received a $39 million, two-part commitment from the Stanton Foundation. About half of the gift is funding a Chair in General Practice and Canine Health and Wellness, seven faculty and 12 staff positions, a new lab and a mobile unit. The other half will establish a new program in five years that will focus on training general practitioners, allowing students to gain experience in clinical settings. 

Stanton has given to Ohio State in the past—in 2002 he established the Ruth Stanton Chair in Veterinary Medicine in his wife’s name—and his foundation’s latest gift arrives as the university, like many others nationwide, is carrying out a huge fundraising campaign, now approaching $3 billion. 

The Stanton Foundation’s support for animals isn’t limited to OSU, however, as one of this quirky funder’s three programs goes toward animal welfare, specifically canines. We wrote previously about its unique backing for police dog programs and to establish dog parks in Massachusetts. Other interests include international and nuclear security, and First Amendment and media issues. 

Related: The Canine-Loving Foundation Backing Shelters, Police Dogs, Even Dog Parks

We’ve seen quite a few two-comma grants from the funder in the past—to shelters, MIT, Stanford and Harvard universities, and some high-profile giving to the Wikimedia Foundation, but this appears to be the largest single commitment on the books from Stanton. 

There’s actually not a ton of foundations that focus on pets or domestic animal welfare, but we have seen some big gifts now and then to colleges of veterinary medicine, driven by a wealthy donor’s love of animals. 

For example, a late newspaper publisher’s charitable foundation has given $47 million to N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. His connection to the school started when he used to take his nine golden retrievers there for care. Philanthropist, dog breeder and trainer Cora Nunnally Miller, who died last year, has donated $13.5 million to UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine. A while back, we covered the horse-loving Malones, who pledged $42.5 million to Colorado State’s to develop new treatments for both animal and human patients. 

It’s not always easy to identify who is going to end up a big animal donor, but it’s clear once again that so many philanthropic decisions are made from a place of emotion and gratitude, and people deeply love animals and their vets. 

Emotions aside, the need for funding is legit. While there’s actually a debate over whether there’s an overall shortage of veterinarians, one National Academies of Science study did identify a need for vets in certain areas, such as public sector research. It also found that both the decline in funding for veterinary schools and the high costs of a veterinary education are jeopardizing the future of the profession. 

Related: A Single Four-Legged Focus: The Tech Philanthropist Giving Millions for Animals