The conference room in the CVM’s VIDI Building that was designated in honor of Cathy and Patrick Breen carries forward a family tradition of philanthropy and the hope that those who utilize the room will one day also follow their lead.
Story by Megan Myers
Dr. Patrick “Doc” Breen and his wife Cathy have devoted their lives to giving back to their communities.
Now retired after having worked as a renowned veterinarian for 27 years, Dr. Breen helps raise money for area nonprofit organizations through auction events, and both husband and wife have given their money and time in various ways, including to scholarships for Texas A&M University students.
In October, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) dedicated a room in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) to the Breens as part of a naming opportunity.
Adorning a wall in the Cathy and Patrick Breen, DVM ’79 Conference Room, located in VIDI Building Room 120, is a plaque that expresses their philosophy on why they give. Dr. and Mrs. Breen grew up near Freeport, Texas. They attended elementary, middle, and high school together and began dating during their time at Brazosport High.
“We were high school sweethearts, and then we married while we were in college,” Mrs. Breen said.
After high school, Mrs. Breen went to Sam Houston State to earn a music degree, while Dr. Breen attended Texas A&M for both his bachelor’s and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees.
“We lived halfway between the two universities, in Iola. So in the mornings, I would go my 25 miles to Huntsville and he’d go his 25 miles to College Station,” Mrs. Breen said. “I didn’t really like to be there by myself, so when he had class or duty I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to study in the Green Room (at the CVM).”
After completing his DVM degree, Dr. Breen opened the Animal Hospital of Georgetown, where he saw small animals for both routine and surgical services.
“He was the veterinarian for the Austin Police Department drug and bomb dogs and the University of Texas bomb and drug dogs,” Mrs. Breen bragged for her husband, a humble man who saw his job as “coming to work early, working hard all day, and going home late.”
He even traveled to Alaska to provide veterinary services for the dogs competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
During this time, Mrs. Breen started a teaching career and sang for churches and weddings.
“I taught private school in different capacities for 10 years and public school music for 11 years,” Mrs. Breen said. “I ‘temporarily’ left teaching to help with computer technology at the clinic and ended up staying at the practice until my retirement.”
Now “mostly retired,” the couple still manages to keep busy.
After exploring different retirement paths that would allow him to give back, Dr. Breen went to auctioneer school to become a benefit auction specialist. He uses his benefit auction specialty at galas and fundraising that help non profits, and other organizations, to raise money for causes that are near and dear to their purposes.
“People can follow more than one dream and still be very successful,” Mrs. Breen said of her husband’s work experience.
PAYING IT FORWARD
One of the philosophies that has dictated the Breens’ generosity is to repay those who have given to them.
Mrs. Breen’s father, Bill Mayse, graduated from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1950, and Dr. Mayse saved for his children’s college education.
Dr. Breen, on the other hand, worked his way through school receiving scholarships to attend college. Thankful for his scholarship assistance, they decided they were going to give back to other students.
After graduation, Dr. Breen met with the Class of ’34, which had awarded him their first Opportunity Awards Scholarship.
“I promised them that I would continue that scholarship work by being not only an advocate, but a donor,” Dr. Breen said.
Among their giving, the Breens have supported the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, Texas A&M’s horse combat unit, as well as a study room for students at the CVM.
“At one of the meetings of the Development Council, Dean (Eleanor) Green talked about the initiative to get what is now VENI, VIDI, and VICI built,” Dr. Breen said. “There was also a need for funds for renovating the Small Animal Hospital, and so at that meeting we decided that we would give a gift.
“This is a result of wanting to make sure that VENI, VIDI, and VICI give veterinary students the very best opportunity to excel by providing them with a great world-class learning environment,” he said.
Dr. Breen currently serves on a committee that raises money for scholarships for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“Every entity that helped him in his dreams, we have rallied around their causes and given back to them,” Mrs. Breen said. “Because he is probably not going to brag on himself, he also started an A&M scholarship through our Williamson County A&M Club.”
This scholarship, founded in 1992, was created with the hopes of raising $500 through an annual fish fry for Texas A&M students from Williamson County.
“We carried our little fish fryer up to the park, we ran an ad in the paper that we were raising $500, and we just prayed that somebody would show up and eat fish, and eat beans, and coleslaw, and cupcakes,” Mrs. Breen said.
That first event raised its $500 and since then, has been increasing in both funds and fish, this past year raising $40,000.
“Not only did he give back to every entity that helped him, but we also together pledged to create our own entity to help the university, so we’re very proud of that part of our lives,” Mrs. Breen said.
THE BREEN OFFSPRING
Family has always been incredibly important to the Breens.
Dr. Breen was very close with his father-in-law, Dr. Mayse, who worked as a veterinarian most of his life before passing away in 2014.
“We had great role models, our dads were both hard workers. My dad was the only veterinarian in Freeport for 50 years, and Pat’s dad worked for the prison system and our dads had incredible work ethics,” she continued. “Both were very proud of our scholarships that we helped raise later in life because they both knew how important it was for Patrick to have those scholarships.”
Dr. and Mrs. Breen have three daughters, Laura, Leighann, and Elizabeth, all of whom inherited their parents’ charitable nature.
Laura, an A&M communications graduate, works with her husband at their concrete placement company and has two daughters. Leighann, who works with her husband at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, recently adopted a son from Bulgaria. Elizabeth, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from A&M, lives in College Station. Elizabeth is working for Texas Concrete Placement while pursuing her career. She hopes to return to the university in some capacity.
“We all get together real often,” Mrs. Breen said. “We’re a very close family.”
Their middle daughter Leighann, who is a board-certified child life specialist, endured many spinal cord surgeries as a child that required a lot of therapy afterward.
As part of her recovery, Leighann used hippotherapy at ROCK, the Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, Texas. Hippotherapy, or equine-assisted therapy, is often used by children and adults for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The riders are able to learn balance and coordination skills, as well as form emotional connections with their instructors and horses.
Later, Dr. Breen helped connect ROCK to Texas A&M University, allowing for the creation of the CVM’s Courtney Cares Program, which is used to teach therapeutic horsemanship to Aggies; it receives staff and knowledge from ROCK, as well as horses and horseback training from Parsons Mounted Cavalry.
Dr. Breen is an “in the dirt” volunteer horse handler and side walker at ROCK, as well as vice president on the board of directors.
“You don’t always give back because of money, but you give back because of situations,” Mrs. Breen said of their support of Courtney Cares, ROCK, and Parsons Mounted Cavalry. “When people are there for you on any level—ours happens to be on a huge level—you strive in some way monetarily or physically to give back. They helped our daughter be successful and follow her dreams.”
Texas A&M has recently started its first equine-assisted therapy course and Dr. Breen is often a featured guest speaker in the class.
The couple now lives at Tres Palomas, their ranch near Georgetown where they raise Angus Cross beef cattle. They have been married for 40 years.
“I realized that we’ve done a lot to help others, too; it’s actually a great feeling,” Mrs. Breen said. “It’s very important that they should feel that inner satisfaction that they gave, no matter the amount.”
Note: This story originally appeared in the 2019 Spring edition of CVM Today.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216