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Honoring Janet Veit

  • Janet Veit

    Honoring Janet Veit

    A perpetual scholarship at the College of Veterinary Medicine has been established in memory of an accomplished and well-liked alumna.

    Photo by Leigh Webber

Robert Spencer was at a family funeral when he received the call that Janet Veit, ’96 DVM, a veterinarian at his clinic, Hillside Animal Hospital in La Crosse, Wis., for 22 years, had died in a fishing accident in Iceland—an event so stunning it soon made the papers in the Twin Cities and even the Washington Post.

“I was so shocked I couldn’t say anything,” recalls Spencer.

Veit, 48, and her husband, Brian Schumacher, were fly-fishing by the inlet of a river in a storm-tossed lake near Reykjavik. Schumacher unknowingly stepped off a dropoff and was swept into the lake by the current. Veit plunged in to rescue him. By the time a small boat nearby could be launched, Schumacher had died and Veit could not be revived.

Shaken by the loss of his talented and well-liked colleague, Spencer contemplated a way to honor her. “We should live our life so it means something going forward,” he says. So in the days following Veit’s death, Spencer helped to establish a perpetual scholarship at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) in her memory.

Veit’s interest in hunting and fishing started when she met Schumacher. Together they fished trout in the karst hills near their La Crescent, Minn., home and traveled far afield to fish and hunt sea ducks. They taught fly-fishing and guided fishing trips. “They put in their time helping others learn how to fish. They were both very giving of their hobby,” says Patrice Veit, Janet’s sister. “The act of heroism—where one goes into the water after the other—that’s just the kind of people they were,” she says.

Janet had grown up around animals on a North Dakota farm, but she originally intended to study human medicine. “I don’t know what year she switched and decided that she would really rather treat more species than humans,” says Patrice. 

As a vet, Janet proved a source of advice and inspiration to her niece, Anna Veit, now a fourth year student at the CVM. Though she lived far away near Detroit Lakes, Minn., Anna shadowed her for a week at Hillside Animal Hospital and asked her advice about classes and rotations. 

“When we got together with the whole family, she would tell us about her most interesting cases in the past week—so being exposed to that definitely pushed me in this direction,” Anna says.

Janet Veit and her husband, Brian Schumacher
Janet Veit and her husband, Brian Schumacher


“The act of heroism—where one goes into the water after the other—that’s just the kind of people they were.”

Patrice Veit

Spencer says Veit was very proud of having gone to the CVM. So he called the University to set up a scholarship with $10,000 of his own. His idea was to dole out $1,000 a year for 10 years. But Bill Venne, chief development officer at the College, told him that a $25,000 gift could provide $1,000 a year in perpetuity. Says Spencer, “Bill seemed to think that raising the rest of that money was not going to be hard.”

So Spencer put out the word to friends, family, clients, and local businesses. People called and volunteered donations. A local radio station, where disc jockeys had been veterinary clients, made a donation.“The outpouring has been pretty amazing,” says Spencer.

The fund has raised $37,000 to date. “Now it’s going to be a permanent memorial, which I think is wonderful,” says Spencer. Scholarships from the fund, which is called the Dr. Janet Veit Scholarship fund, will be available to students from Veit’s home state of North Dakota or from the La Crosse area. The first recipient will be named later this school year.

Spencer says he hopes the fund will help students, even if in a modest way, get through school with less debt. “I remember how excited Janet was when she had finally paid off all of her student loans. I know that she would be happy if that helped anybody else.” 

He hopes, too, that the scholarship will help promote the best talent the College has to offer and, in some way, help give additional impact and visibility to a life that was lost. “We wanted to honor Dr. Veit in some kind of meaningful, purposeful way, and I think this scholarship does that.”


Photo of Janet Veit and Brian Schumacher by John Schnack

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