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History of the Program

The organization presently known as the Scott-Ritchey Research Center is the result of the vision of Dr. B.F. “Frank” Hoerlein, Professor and Chairman of Small Animal Surgery and Medicine at Auburn University. Dr. Hoerlein was committed to research for the advancement of companion animal health, but lacked the financial support and facilities needed for this important work.

In 1955, Mr. Kenneth A. Scott, an avid field-trial dog competitor, offered to contribute money to support Dr. Hoerlein's research using a matching formula, which gave Dr. Hoerlein the essential start needed to build a viable research program. Donations to the “Scott” fund were solicited from graduates of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, usually in the form of memorials for their client’s animals. Dr. Ivan Frederickson, a veterinarian in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, approached a client of his, Miss Eleanor Ritchey, and suggested that she consider donating to the "Scott" fund. Miss Ritchey was well known for her love of animals, and in particular, dogs.  However, she did not respond overtly to Dr. Frederickson’s suggestion. Instead, after her death in 1968, it was revealed that she had committed her entire estate to create a much-expanded version of the modest beginnings supported by Mr. Scott. The Ritchey bequest provided a stable endowment and was used to construct a modern 42,000 sq. ft. research building that was completed in 1984. The endowment provided sufficient income to support a full time research faculty and technical staff.  Based on this endowment, the Scott-Ritchey Research Laboratories were established with Dr. Hoerlein as its first Director.

Dr. Hoerlein's personal research interests and that of the early faculty focused on neurological diseases of dogs and cats. Over the years, under the leadership of subsequent Directors, Dr. Steve Swaim and Dr. Henry Baker, research topics within the Center have included molecular medicine, infectious diseases, inherited diseases, nutrition, reconstructive surgery and other topics.  In 1992, the name was changed to the Scott-Ritchey Research Center to identify the Center as an interdepartmental, multi-disciplinary unit within the College of Veterinary Medicine. Today, Center scientists conduct research and collaborate with other faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, and institutions worldwide on projects focused on companion animal health. Research conducted by Center scientists has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Kemper Fund, the AVMA Foundation, the Mathers Foundation, MichelsonGrants/Found Animals Foundation, National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association, the Morris Animal Foundation, and other private and commercial entities.

Since its inception, the Scott-Ritchey Research Center has been a pace-setter for research devoted to improving the health of companion animals. No other organization of its type exists elsewhere, even today. Miss Ritchey took a bold step and unfortunately was ridiculed by some of the press, who characterized the project as "millions gone to the dogs". But for all of us who have enjoyed the unconditional love and companionship of a pet dog or cat, the true legacy of Miss Ritchey's fateful decision is understood clearly and appreciated. Dr. Hoerlein's dedication and skill as a teacher, clinician and scientist and his tremendous accomplishments in small animal medicine, as well as those who have followed in his footsteps, would never have been achieved without the understanding and generosity of Mr. Scott and Miss Ritchey. Together these three visionaries created a remarkable Research Center which continues to serve the objectives about which each of them felt so strongly. If you would like to help build on the legacy left by Dr. Hoerlein, Mr. Scott and Miss Ritchey, please consider giving to the Center to support its research programs.

Auburn University | College of Veterinary Medicine | Auburn, Alabama 36849 | (334) 844-4546
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