Congratulations to all of the new graduates of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine! Among those receiving degrees at Saturday’s 66th Commencement Ceremony held at the Mondavi Center were 134 DVM students, 39 residents and 11 students in the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program.

Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter welcomed those assembled with a call for graduates to remember…“this above all, to thine own self be true.” 

Dr. Grace Bransford, a 1998 graduate of the school and owner of Ross Valley Veterinary Hospital in San Anselmo, offered the commencement address. She urged students to continue learning—not just through Continuing Education offerings, but through disappointments when things don’t go as planned, and observing the indelible bond between people and their animals. 

“Establish your internal compass,” she told the graduates. “Go in the direction of ‘feeling warmer’ when it comes to making decisions in your life, because only you will know what’s right for you. Then keep going, don’t look back.”

Executive Associate Dean John Pascoe presented Rachel Ferris with the school medal, the highest honor for a graduating student in recognition of outstanding academic and clinical performance. Ferris will intern in small animal medicine at the Animal Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Karl Jandrey, associate dean of Student Programs, was selected as the faculty speaker by the students. True to his lecture style, Jandrey went rogue during his talk by using a cordless microphone. After disappearing from the stage while talking, he reappeared in the back of the audience, looking down the rows toward the stage.

“You guys are really handsome from up here!” he told the graduating class to a great deal of laughter.

He shared some of his story as a first-generation college student and then a few key bits of wisdom that echoed sentiments shared by Bransford.

--Learn to be a good listener; it’s often more important than speaking. Jandrey credited this skill to his father and said that by listening to friends, family and his clients, he’s learned not to judge people at first glance.

--Surround yourself with people that support you—and get rid of those who don’t. While the audience got a good laugh out of this, Jandrey told students to get out there, find your niche, find your people and keep them close. 

--Have a plan, but be willing to take chances and change course. You never know where Plan B may take you. Jandrey related that he never intended to pursue emergency medicine or enter academia and yet that’s exactly where he ended up and he loves it. 

--Give back. Jandrey said no good commencement speech goes off without a good quote and one of his favorites came from Winston Churchill. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” He cited the example of grateful clients, Dean and Denise Tracy, who established a Thursday night routine of delivering dinner to students working in B Barn in appreciation for excellent care of their mini horse, Shrek, several months ago. 

In addition to the resilience that Bransford urged the graduating class to nurture in themselves, Jandrey called upon them to add adaptability. The combination of resilience and adaptability is what gives someone mettle and the strength to carry on when the going gets tough.

Jandrey wrapped up his address to the Class of 2017: “Welcome to my community, you guys are going to rock!”

Dean Michael Lairmore said he’s watched this class take the issue of wellness seriously—by following their exploits on Instagram. He recalled a few escapades captured by cell phones, including the group who missed class to drive nine hours to witness the California super bloom of wildflowers this year. Lairmore went on to introduce student speaker Lori Hammond, whose mettle has impressed the entire school community. 

“Holy toe-tapping chickens, we’ve made it!” Hammond said.

For someone who has aspired to be a veterinarian since kindergarten, the journey to the stage at commencement has been a struggle that not all would have the fortitude to complete. After a backpacking trip following her undergraduate sophomore year at UC Davis, Hammond developed a rare spinal arterial venous malformation that compressed her spinal cord 80-90 percent and left her paralyzed at the T-5 T-7 level. She persevered through intense physical therapy to learn to walk again with the aid of a walker. 

Then, after entering veterinary school, Hammond was diagnosed with leukemia. After chemotherapy, Hammond returned to join the Class of 2017. The scariest day of vet school was her second first day, but she recalled being immediately embraced by her new classmates. By the time Hammond finished speaking, there weren’t many dry eyes or people sitting in their seats.

Congratulations Class of 2017! We’re eager to see all the places you’ll go and things that you’ll do.