Update (6:00 p.m.)

During Thursday’s announcement, officials with West Texas A&M University announced a new companion animal science program, coming out of a $2.1 million planned gift from WT President Emeritus Russell C. Long and his wife Natrelle Hedrick Long.

According to a news release from the university, the new companion animal science program is aimed at students planning to pursue a career in veterinary medicine or other pet-related careers. The gift sets up a scholarship fund for students in the program, the establishment of the Dr. Russell C. Long and Natrelle Hedrick Long Professorship in Companion Animal Studies along with the donation of their collection of books to the university’s Cornette Library.

“There are students who would like to get into vet school, but who simply cannot. This provides another kind of opportunity for them because they love animals, they want to work with animals. They’re interested in animals and this provides an opportunity for them to take advantage of that,” said Russell Long.

Dr. David Sissom, the associate dean of the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, also serves as the head of the department of life Earth and Environmental Sciences. Sissom said the program is new not just to WT, but the entire region.

“It’s going to really help the communities understand and deal with companion animals, and students will be able to learn about them, and learn how to help with community issues dealing with companion animals,” said Sissom. “Once students take some of those courses and they understand that this companion animal management program is available, many of them, we expect, will declare minors in this discipline.”

Sissom said the Longs have a passion for companion animals and the program was their concept and vision.

“We are extremely grateful for the gift, and we’re looking for great things to come of this,” he continued.

Dr. Sara-Louise Newcomer, a certified veterinarian, will teach companion animal studies starting next fall. She was named the first Dr. Russell C. Long and Natrelle Hedrick Long Professorship in Companion Animal Studies.

“A pre-vet student that’s getting an animal science degree that is primarily focused on large animals could also get a minor in companion animals, because they’re also interested in cats and dogs,” she said.

Newcomer also said an education in companion animal studies could be helpful for future vet techs, trainers, or to start grooming and boarding businesses, among other careers.

“So this will give them an opportunity to have some background, whether it be a minor or certificate in their undergrad degree, to go on and work in this community in the companion animal industry, which is a billion dollar industry.”

Dr. Russell Long said he hopes their gift will set a positive example for others with similar interests.

“We love WT and anything we can do to help that’s in our ability, we’d love to do it,” Natrelle Long said.

“Russell and Natrelle served WT faithfully in their leadership roles, and they continue to set an example in their sustained connection to the University in their retirement,” WT President Walter V. Wendler said in the release. “I am grateful for their continued leadership to WT through their generous support of the One West campaign.”

Original Story:

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Officials with West Texas A&M University said that a “major” new program aimed at addressing needs in pre-veterinary education and animal studies will be commemorated on Thursday, as part of the university’s ongoing “One West” fundraising campaign.

According to the university announcement, a gift to the One West campaign from Natrelle and President Emeritus Russell Long will be commemorated at the Natural Sciences Building on Thursday at 10 a.m. As noted by officials, the program that is being granted funding through the Longs’ gift could have an impact over the High Plains and beyond, focusing on a specific area of study revolving around a market valued at over $18 billion.

This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.

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