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CVM alum's legacy will live on through $12.6M estate gift

“He was a man who lived without fanfare, working long hours, always increasing his knowledge and very quietly giving back to the community. As a promoter of perpetual education while he lived, it is not surprising his bequest would do the same.”

A formal portrait of Dr. Albert Dehn, wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and a black tie

CVM alum's legacy will live on through $12.6M estate gift

The Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine has received the largest single gift in its history: $12.6 million from the estate of the late alumnus Albert C. Dehn. The gift will initially fund two new endowed chairs in the Large Animal Clinical Science and the Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigations departments, with a plan that the gift could eventually support four endowed positions.

After earning his veterinary degree from MSU in 1950, Dehn returned to his hometown of Abbotsford, Wisconsin, where he practiced for his entire career, primarily treating the cows on local dairy farms. Fondly known as “Doc” to his friends and neighbors, Dehn also served on the board of the local bank and spent his life giving back to his community from his place firmly outside the spotlight.

“While the magnitude of this gift is unprecedented, the motivation is not,” said John Baker, dean for the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our culture of humble philanthropy is well-known and well-documented here. It’s not uncommon for us to receive estate gifts from alumni who maintained a quiet passion for the college and its mission over decades.”

This was true of Dehn, who had tremendous respect for his alma mater and designated the gift in his will because he felt there was no higher philanthropy than to name an endowed chair.

“Endowed chairs enhance the quality of the faculty and the educational experience, which is the foundation for academic excellence,” said President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are especially grateful that Dr. Dehn chose to support one of our most important priorities – the academic program. This gift will enable us to attract faculty leaders in veterinary medicine with stable support to actively engage in leading-edge work.”

Both departments in the veterinary college are nationally and internationally recognized as a source of groundbreaking research. From identifying the effects of bacteria in autoimmune disorders, to investigating the implications of antimicrobial resistance and protecting the food chain, to understanding airway cell damage and repair in connection with the effects of airborne pollution, these departments are leaders in advancing better health for animals and humans.

A lifelong proponent of education and enrichment, Dehn spearheaded the creation of a charitable foundation in Abbotsford, the mission of which was to support community projects that would make life better for its citizens. Jennifer Jakel, a longtime neighbor and friend of Dehn’s, believes he would be proud to see his life’s work culminate in a gift that will impact even more lives, far beyond his hometown.

“The gift endowed by Dr. Dehn is reflective of the man himself,” she said. “He was a man who lived without fanfare, working long hours, always increasing his knowledge and very quietly giving back to the community. As a promoter of perpetual education while he lived, it is not surprising his bequest would do the same.”

The Albert C. and Lois E. Dehn chairs will be established at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017. The college is now in the process of identifying qualified candidates for the initial chairs.

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