School Celebrates Creation of New Presidential Endowed Chair

screen shot of video conference call of event participants
(Clockwise from upper left) Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy, Max and Marcia Messmer, and Dr. Michael Lairmore celebrate a new endowed chair at a virtual event.

On November 18, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated the creation of a new Presidential Chair that was the fruit of a two-decade relationship with the school and the Messmer family. Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy was introduced as the inaugural chairholder of the Messmer Family Presidential Chair in the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service at the virtual event.

Marcia Messmer congratulates Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy on her appointment to the new Messmer Family Presidential Chair (Dr. Chris Murphy, husband of Joanne, in background).
Marcia Messmer congratulates Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy on her appointment to the new Messmer Family Presidential Chair (Dr. Chris Murphy, husband of Joanne, in background).

“My love for all animals—the smallest and most vulnerable in particular—brought me to the School of Veterinary Medicine as a client almost 20 years ago,” said Marcia Messmer, who along with her husband Max provided the key funding to create the chair. “Our family is proud to be part of the UC Davis extended family and is proud to support the future of exotic animal medicine at the number one school of veterinary medicine in the world.”

Dean Michael Lairmore led the multimedia event that honored the accomplishments of Paul-Murphy and the relationship with the Messmers and explained the background for the creation of the chair and its expected impact. More than 70 people attended the event, including members of the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service, friends and family of Paul-Murphy and the Messmers, and other members of the community. As the event kicked off, Lairmore introduced a congratulatory message delivered by video from Chancellor Gary May.

Chancellor Gary May congratulating Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy on her new appointment, and thanking the Messmers for their vision in creating the Messmer Family Presidential Chair.
Chancellor Gary May congratulating Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy on her new appointment, and thanking the Messmers for their vision in creating the Messmer Family Presidential Chair.

“I’m delighted to announce the establishment of the Messmer Family Presidential Chair in the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service,” said May. “As far as we know, this is the only endowed chair of its kind in the world! I know the Messmer Family Presidential Chair is going to make a big difference in advancing our treatment and surgical interventions of companion exotic animals.”

Companion exotic animals are non-traditional pets like rabbits, snakes, birds, fish, or Marcia Messmer’s favorite, guinea pigs. Paul-Murphy, the current chief of the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, has focused her career on studying and treating exotics.

“Her clinical interests include companion zoological animals—small mammals (including rodents, rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets), birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish,” Lairmore stated of Paul-Murphy in his remarks. “She is especially passionate about avian species, such as parrots and kestrels.”

Paul-Murphy has specifically worked to improve pain management, wellness, and welfare in the companion animal field. In 2019, Paul-Murphy was named the recipient of the annual Animal Welfare Award by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Holding an endowed chair is a very high honor in the world of academia,” said Paul-Murphy. “I am incredibly humbled to be recognized with the Messmer Family Presidential Chair. I have been fortunate to have numerous accomplishments along my career journey, but this endowed chair is the honor of my lifetime.”

Endowed chairs provide funds in perpetuity to support the work of esteemed faculty in directed academic areas. Former UC President Janet Napolitano launched the Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs program, which supplements donor funds to incentivize the creation of endowed chairs. The school’s other chair founded through the program is the Dr. Terry Holliday Equine and Comparative Neurology Presidential Chair, which is held by Dr. Monica Aleman.

“There are immediate research needs in exotic animal medicine that are not being met,” said Paul-Murphy. “The Messmer family endowment allows our section to take steps forward right now to reach our goals. It is not lost on any of us that this endowment is from the entire Messmer family, a family with philanthropy at their heart. The chair’s name, the Messmer Family, will forever be associated with the world’s best clinical service and clinician scientists in companion exotic animal medicine and surgery.”

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Watch the entire event, including the chancellor’s message and other pre-recorded tributes to Marcia Messmer and Paul-Murphy, on the school’s YouTube page.

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