Class of 2019 Scholarship Recipients

Many first-graders, when picking a gift for a teacher, might choose an apple. Crystal Climer went with a heart. This wasn’t a typical red construction paper heart adorned with a white doily, or a heart-shaped box filled with caramels. It was an actual heart from one of the Climer family cows. When a number of cattle on the family farm fell ill and died, Climer’s mother, a veterinarian, conducted a necropsy on one of the cows to determine the cause. She allowed her daughter to assist with the procedure. The 6-year-old kept the cow’s heart, took it to school and gave it to her favorite teacher.crystal in color

From this early veterinary experience, Climer learned that the wild hydrangeas growing alongside a creek that runs through the farm were toxic to cattle, and that her teacher, who simply remarked that the gift was “unusual,” apparently was not squeamish. She has kept the heart to this day.

Now 22, and a first-year veterinary student at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Climer was one of two recipients awarded Gentle Doctor Benefit scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year. The two scholarships, which are funded by an endowment that the Gentle Doctor Benefit supports, totaled $7,000 each. The endowment also provided $100 scholarships to all first-year veterinary students to offset the cost of textbooks.

“I was super excited,” Climer said of learning she had been awarded the scholarship. “I didn’t realize what it was at first and that it had been based on my admissions interview.”

Climer was raised on a family farm in Bells, a small town in western Tennessee. She said she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a veterinarian since she was 5. She attended private school until ninth grade, when she transferred to the public school system so that she could participate in Future Farmers of America (FFA). She then pursued a degree in animal science as an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Climer was accepted into several veterinary colleges. She chose Missouri for its geographic proximity to her home, affordability, and personable students and faculty.

Since coming to the CVM, Climer has worked part time at a cattle farm near Eldon, Missouri. She has become involved with fundraising events, such as the Dog Jog, Josh Project, and Guns and Grub at the Grove. She has joined several clubs, including the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, in which she has served as secretary and will soon become president, and the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA). Climer said she joined the VBMA because her future goals include owning her own veterinary practice. She and her older brother, a mechanical engineer, also plan to continue her family’s farming tradition by one day operating a beef cattle farm together.

Sonja Perry began asking for a horse when she was 5. Her parents told her she had to wait until she turned 10. When her 10th birthday came, they instead presented her with four boer goats. Within two years, she had grown her four goats to a herd of 32 that she kept on her parents’ 20 acres.

“My dad drove me to the feed store and helped me with some decisions, but they were my goats to breed and manage,” she said.

The youngest of four siblings, Perry, 22, was raised in Bowling Green, Missouri, whersonja in colore her mother is an attorney and her father is a biochemist who owns and operates an agricultural testing laboratory for soil, water and manure. Despite her early interest in the science involved in her father’s work, her parents thought she would pursue a law career, until they witnessed her become increasingly involved with her goat herd, and the horse she did eventually r
eceive when she was 11.

“I was involved in FFA and became a state officer, and I was in 4-H,” Perry said. “I realized that I had become less interested in how to win shows and more about the science behind (raising livestock),” she said. Her interest in becoming a veterinarian was further driven by frustration when her goats had medical issues that she couldn’t resolve herself.

Eventually, she sold the goats to help pay for her undergraduate education at the University of Missouri. At Mizzou she earned a bachelor’s degree, with a major in animal science and a minor in agricultural economics.

Upon learning that she had been awarded one of this year’s Gentle Doctor Benefit scholarships, Perry said she was moved to tears.

“I was working three jobs all summer trying to save as much money as possible. It was such a huge relief that there was going to be some help there,” she said. “I’m really thankful for the opportunities it opens up for me. My eventual goal is to open my own practice, so I’m hoping to minimize the student loan debt I take on.”

Perry said her future goals include living in a rural area of Missouri and practicing food animal medicine.