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05.03.05

Houston Native, 57, Becomes Oldest to Get Veterinary Medical Degree

Houston Native, 57, Becomes Oldest to Get Veterinary Medical Degree

May 3, 2005 - At age 57, Pat Ryan says she is dog-gone tired.

When she receives her degree next week (Thursday, May 12) from Texas A&M University 's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Houston native will become the oldest person ever in Texas to graduate with a veterinary medicine degree.

It's also taken her 10 years to do it, which included years of prerequisite courses before she could embark on the four-year veterinary medicine degree.

"It's no exaggeration to say that when I do get that diploma, it will be one of the happiest days of my life," Ryan confirms.

"The hardest part of all of this has been believing in myself, to have the self-confidence that I could complete the courses necessary. And believe me, these are not easy courses. They are demanding, they are tough, they are nerve-racking.

"The last few years have been the toughest and most challenging of my life, but also some of the happiest. Simply put, there's a lot to learn before you can become a veterinarian."

Ryan wanted to become a veterinarian 25 years ago, but as she phrases it, "A thing called 'life' had other plans for me."

She's packed a lot of living into her 57 years. At various times, she's been a highly paid fashion model who walked runways from New York to Houston , a writer and editor for Mademoiselle magazine, a flight attendant for Pan American Airways, a former Junior Miss of Connecticut, a theatrical producer, a public relations specialist for Neiman Marcus, an award-winning charity organizer who raised $200,000 for the Houston SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and her most important role - a wife of 33 years and mother of two grown daughters.

In between all of that, she battled cervical cancer and was hospitalized for weeks following surgery, which finally rid her of the disease that struck in her mid-30s.

Like one of the felines she will probably be treating in a few weeks, Ryan has seemingly had nine lives - or at least lived nine different ones.

Ryan graduated in 1970 from all-women's Smith College in Massachusetts , but her degree was in theater, which is a tad different than doing emergency canine surgery.

She enrolled in Houston Baptist University and the University of St. Thomas to get the required prerequisite courses, such as advanced chemistry, physics, biology and others, behind her. Then it was on to Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which has an international reputation and the long hours of hard study that go with it.

While her architect husband Jeff, who has degrees from Rice and Harvard, stayed home in Houston , Ryan rented a house in College Station , settled in with three dogs and prepared for the hard courses to come.

"The first year was very, very difficult for me," she recalls. "Besides the course work, which is very demanding, I found out that I just didn't have the stamina these 22-year-olds have. But I got through it. "The faculty and students have been wonderful and supportive of me," she adds. "I came here to learn. I'm certainly not shy about asking questions." Ryan says she will work in a private small animal practice in Houston . Were there times when she thought she'd never graduate?

"Every day," she laughs.

"But I've been living a dream I've had for decades. To be a veterinarian is the deepest desire of my heart. I'm just so glad that day is finally here." Ceremonies for her and the other D.V.M. graduates are set for 2 p.m. Thursday, May 12, in Rudder Auditorium.

Contact Information:
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718



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