Giving Back is Second Nature for Shawn and Heather Sanders

Shawn Sanders ('09 DVM) and family in a field in the Fall.

Like a lot of little kids growing up in southwest Idaho, Shawn Sanders (’09 DVM) dreamed of being a cowboy on a ranch. By junior high, he knew he wanted to be a veterinarian. After earning his undergraduate degree, WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine seemed like the perfect place to study large animal medicine and earn a DVM.

Growing up, Sanders said his family didn’t have much. Drive and determination to make a better life for his family led him not only to WSU, but to working part-time, and sometimes full-time, all the way through school.

“There were times when I had three or four jobs,” says Sanders. “When one didn’t have enough hours, I’d pick up more from another.” While a DVM student, he worked in various labs cleaning dishes, working with horses, goat and lamb herds, or thoroughbred horses and running them on treadmills. His titles included Farm Animal Tech, Equine Reproduction Manager, and Research Assistant.

“We had to pay our way through school,” says Sanders. “With a family, that was a challenge.”

When Sanders started veterinary school in 2005, he and his wife Heather, who were married in 2003, had a 9-month-old baby. “We had three children by the time I graduated,” says Sanders. Today they have 5 children, three girls and two boys.

Sanders owns a mixed animal clinic in Laramie, Wyoming, which he purchased in 2012, just three years after graduation. “The banks were hesitant at first because I’d only been out of school a short time,” says Sanders. “But it has been going really well.”

So in 2014, after years thinking about how they could help, he and his wife started the Shawn and Heather Sanders Support the Family Scholarship. They created it not long after he had read a story about a fellow WSU alumnus, Aaron Gibbons (’11 DVM), who had also funded a scholarship.

“We had been thinking about starting a scholarship since I was a student,” says Sanders. “What kick-started it for us was seeing Aaron’s story. We decided now was the time.”

Having received the Ernie & Beryl Stowe Large Animal Scholarship, the Dr. Jay Newhall Scholarship, and the Dr. & Mrs. E. Doyle Montgomery Scholarship as a student, Sanders knew what a big difference those scholarships made for him and his family. He wanted to pass that help on to other families.

“I knew quite a few families while I was a student,” says Sanders. “I knew how much more of a challenge it was having to struggle to make ends meet. We wanted to help those paying their own way.”

Giving back is second nature to Sanders. As a kid he was active in 4H and FFA, or Future Farmers of America. Today he supports his local 4H program and they are active members in their community. They plan to continue adding to the scholarship to help even more.

“As our business grows, we would like to increase the scholarship,” says Sanders, who hopes that scholarship recipients who buy their own practices will also give back when their businesses do well. “Hopefully our story will encourage other to do the same.”

The Shawn and Heather Sanders Support the Family Scholarship is awarded to first, second, third, or fourth year DVM students at WSU with family obligations, interest in mixed or large animal medicine, and gainfully employed.