By Hanna Leestma on August 06, 2020
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This fall, the College will welcome the DVM Class of 2024 to its community. As these veterinarians in training become acquainted with their classes, College faculty, and campus facilities, they’ll also receive a very special welcome gift.

During student orientation, Dr. Pete and Sharon VanVranken will equip each incoming veterinary medical student with a stethoscope. This is a practical gift for the class’ next four years as veterinary students, but for Pete VanVranken, there’s hidden meaning behind this gift. Pete earned his DVM from MSU in 1974, and he understands the challenges and hard work that lies ahead for these students. Together, he and Sharon are passionate about giving back to the College, so they decided to put forth a memorable gesture.

“As a wife of a veterinarian, watching him build a practice over 40 years now, the experience of seeing all aspects of how people interact with animals and pets has enforced how important this profession is,” says Sharon. “It is exciting, challenging, and ever-changing. The opportunity to develop relationships with clients and communities, and the respect, admiration, and occasional baked goods are something to be valued.”

The VanVranken’s also donate scholarship funds to the College. Pete recalls his own experience as a veterinary student and how it paved the way for their philanthropy. “When I was in undergrad, I received a scholarship from a private individual,” says Pete. “Sharon and I felt we should continue the tradition. We have tried to help incoming students with scholarships. This gift of stethoscopes, however, is different. As a veterinary student in the 70’s, we all went out and purchased our own stethoscopes. Some of us had limited funds, so in many cases, we were trying to learn with instruments that had limited capacities. Students should all be on a level playing field with one piece of learning equipment. Moreover, they can learn every day with a piece of equipment provided by their colleagues in the veterinary community.”

This is the second consecutive year the VanVranken’s have provided the incoming DVM class with stethoscopes. Elyse Rybka, DVM Class of 2023, remembers hers. “For me, the stethoscope was an amazing gift that made me feel welcomed into the world of veterinary medicine,” says Rybka. “It helped me keep my goals set and remember the words of wisdom Dr. Pete gave my class: ‘Keep pushing forward, even though it will be extremely hard, challenging, and make you question yourself. You are the next faces of medicine.’”

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Kimberly Guzman, DVM Class of 2023, echoes Rybka’s sentiment. “Thank you so much to Dr. Pete and Sharon VanVranken for the amazing donation of stethoscopes to the Class of 2023! Receiving this stethoscope was a vital tool to help in our journey to becoming amazing veterinarians!”

After graduating from MSU with his DVM, Pete founded Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic. “My veterinary degree has opened more doors for me and my family than I could possibly have imagined,” he says. “I graduated in 1974 with zero educational debt and understand that these are different times with different circumstances. That being said, our veterinary degree still opens doors and presents opportunities. I don’t think I have ever regretted becoming a veterinarian. It has been a trip with no arrival destination and a life-long learning experience.”

Sharon owns Veterinary Apparel Company, based in Battle Creek, Michigan. Her best advice for incoming students? “A quote that I like, ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest. Make your good better and your better best.’”

Unlike the year prior, the VanVranken’s won’t be able to present the stethoscopes to students in person. Instead, Pete has recorded a video message that will be played for the Class of 2024 when they receive their stethoscopes. While a virtual delivery is always second to in-person meetings, the VanVranken’s message is loud and clear.

“The scholarships, donation of stethoscopes, and opportunity to share stories are our way of saying thank you to Michigan State University for a great education for the foundation that provided for a great career,” says Sharon.