By Kelsie Donaldson on October 05, 2023

This article includes quotes and information from the 2020 issue of Perspectives Magazine

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“I’ve had dogs all my life,” says Nancy Brookins, the 2023 Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Philanthropist of the Year. “I always wanted a poodle; Minni was a rescue, picked up as a stray. She was ugly as could be because her hair was very matted and she was terribly skinny, but we fell in love with her.”

When Minni developed a tumor in her liver, Brookins took her to the MSU Veterinary Medical Center. Brookins recalls, “I was so impressed with everything, and how considerate everyone was. Everyone was so good with Minni, and I’m glad I had MSU to do everything they could for her. They extended the time I was able to spend with her.”

After ten happy years with Brookins, Minni passed away from the liver cancer. Brookins began to think about ways to honor the memory of her beloved companion, and MSU came to mind.

She was no stranger to the College of Veterinary Medicine; fueled by a love of animals, Brookins and her late mother, June, had established the June Evans Award Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Nancy L. Brookins Endowed Scholarship Fund in 1997. Since the creation of these funds, more than 240 scholarships have been awarded to 135 DVM students, and $859,000 has been awarded since 2002.

As Brookins was looking to do something in memory of Minni, she learned the Veterinary Medical Center was beginning renovations. “I knew an updated, modern facility would help a lot. I just wanted to do something for others with animals,” says Brookins. Her desire to make an impact, combined with her positive experiences as a client, led Brookins to donate to the Hospital.

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Brookins and VanVranken

With the help of Brookins’ gift, the Veterinary Medical Center underwent major renovations, including a new HVAC system, a new soft tissue treatment area, and improvements to the anesthesia and pre-surgical prep area. Now that the dust is settling, Hospital staff, clinicians, and patients are enjoying the new, brighter spaces.

“Our building has been here for quite some time,” says Dr. Douglas Freeman, interim dean of the College. “It is important to keep it fresh, current, and up-to-date in terms of the clinic and how the space presents itself to visitors coming in from the community. We couldn’t do what we need to do without the help of people like Nancy Brookins. Her generosity made such a huge difference.”

“Nancy wants to help people and help their pets,” adds Brookins’ local veterinarian and MSU alum Pete VanVranken (DVM ’74). “I think that’s a big thing.”

Brookins was recognized as the Philanthropist of the Year at the Celebration of Generosity on September 28, 2023. While Brookins was honored to receive the award, for her, it’s all about making a difference. “I would do anything to help animals,” she says. “I think they deserve the best help they can get, and Michigan State is the place where you can get the best.”

The Nancy L. Brookins Endowed Scholarship was established to help educate veterinarians who show a love for animals and their well-being. Join Nancy—support the next generation of veterinarians.