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May 3, 2005 - At age 57, Pat Ryan says she is
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
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
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
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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