Our alumni are an essential part of the college. Not only do they donate time, talent, and treasure, but they also play a crucial role in referring patients to our services at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Kristen Hitt (DVM ’06) is one of those alumni, and she used that role to help her clients Dan and Eileen Rollyson when there were no other options at her practice, Mainstay Veterinary Practice in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Sugar Rollyson came to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 2016 with an undiagnosed illness. That visit marked the beginning of Dan and Eileen’s relationship with both the college and the teaching hospital. “The visit would not have happened without Dr. Hitt. We were able to have the best of the best down in Blacksburg” said the Rollysons.

The neurology department ran tests to determine the 11-year-old collie’s need for treatment. During these tests, the Rollysons and Hitt were given a tour of the hospital. “We had no idea the different types of good work you were doing,” Dan Rollyson remembered. “We got to see some of things that you were doing in the larger animals...some of the offices and labs where they were doing research. We were so impressed with all the people, including the students.”

Things did not go as a dog owner would hope, and Sugar’s condition continued to deteriorate. A few weeks later, on June 23, she was euthanized; unfortunately, the illness was never conclusively diagnosed. The Rollysons reflected on their time at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and wanted to memorialize Sugar in a way that made sense to them by donating to “one of the most impressive organizations we’ve ever been affiliated with,” Dan Rollyson stated. “If they couldn’t save her, nobody could.”

The Rollysons made their first gift in 2016, in memory of Sugar, allocating it to the Clinical Research Excellence Fund. Their second gift, in 2017, was in memory of their collie Annie, who passed away from complications of old age. They continue giving to research to increase the possibility of finding answers in cases like Sugar’s. “The more research that can be done, the more answers there will be in the future,” Eileen said. They are also in the process of setting up a legacy gift for the college to benefit research, in hopes that it will make a difference for others.

“Hopefully, someday, somebody won’t have to go through what we went through. It would be worth all the work and money we saved up,” Dan continued. “Because of the competency, and the love, the abilityto communicate, and the treatment that we received.” The Rollysons’ relationship with the college and hospital continues to grow. They have returned for a more in-depth tour and enjoy staying in touch with faculty members. Their hope is to continue their connection with the vet school to help it succeed. “We look for organizations that will benefit the things we love, like our animals, and put the money to good use. [We want the school to] keep educating students and cranking out doctors of the same caliber that we observed at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and we want to be a part of it after we’re gone.”