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A Teacher’s Gift

Retired veterinarian plans ahead to support future students

During her almost five decades in veterinary medicine, Dr. Susan Cotter has earned many accolades. But one of the most thrilling moments of her career was arriving at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in the spring of 1981. She’s been teaching at the school ever since.

“I love working with Cummings students,” she says. “They’re all so excited to be here and they work so hard.”

After earning her D.V.M. from the University of Illinois in 1966—one of just four women in a class of 41 students—Cotter interned and worked at Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston. There, in collaboration with Harvard virologist Dr. Max Essex, she helped to prove that the viruses that cause feline leukemia, one of the primary causes of death for cats, are contagious and suppress the immune system. That work led to a vaccine for the disease, saving an estimated one million animals every year.

Cotter went on to receive the Mark L. Morris, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Veterinary Hematology, and more. She shares her deep understanding of veterinary research with a new crop of Cummings students every year. Although she officially retired in June 2010, she still teaches first-year students, helping them work through veterinary cases on paper to prepare them for the clinic. One of the hardest challenges the students face, she knows, is financial.

“Our students go into veterinary medicine because it’s what they really want to do, but proper training is expensive,” she says.

Cotter and her husband, retired physician Richard H. Seder, sought a way to ease students’ financial burden and found that a charitable gift annuity was a perfect solution for them and the school. Their gift creates a dependable income stream for them during their lifetimes and will ultimately support scholarships at Cummings. The aid will ensure that more students will have the opportunity to pursue veterinary medicine, regardless of their financial status.

“I learn from my students every day,” says Cotter. “And I’m happy to be able to help them and give back.”