How do you celebrate a lifetime of impact? For the Wilkins family, creating an endowed scholarship for aspiring veterinarians was an especially meaningful way to honor John Langley Wilkins, V’52.
Fondly known as Jack, he was easygoing, especially for an ex-Marine. He excelled at making others feel comfortable and was known for his sunny disposition and affable sense of humor. As an only child, he had a special way with animals. His Schnauzer mix Schnapps (“Schnappsy,” to Jack) would regularly follow him to school before walking home unescorted when the bell rang.
It seemed only natural that Jack would pursue a career in veterinary medicine. He worked hard to get straight As, and he was accepted to Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1948—an accomplishment that made his father proud.
At Penn, Jack spent many treasured hours assisting the future Dean, Mark Allam, V’32, in the operating room. Jack served as vice president of his class, and he was an advertising manager for Penn Vet’s yearbook, Scalpel. He was also a member of the veterinary fraternity Alpha Psi where he forged many lifelong friendships and enjoyed a welcome respite from the rigors of his coursework. Jack was delighted to have his wife Anne by his side throughout his academic journey and veterinary career.
Jack and Anne, married in 1946, had their first son, Glenn, while Jack was finishing his fourth year at Penn. After graduation, their young family moved to Muncy, Pa. where Jack established a mixed animal practice. He regretfully concluded that Muncy was a town that only needed one and a half veterinarians, and after a few years, he decided to branch out. He connected with another Penn graduate, Harvey Fell, V’25, who had a thriving companion animal practice in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Fell hired Jack, and eventually, Jack bought the practice from him. Circle Veterinary Clinic continues as a small animal practice with his son David as the primary veterinarian and Lauren Chestney Jones V’11, a loyal and supportive associate veterinarian since 2012. David hopes to hire a full-time veterinarian as medical director to continue Circle Vet’s legacy as the oldest continuously operating veterinary hospital in Delaware.
Though Jack was the first in his family to attend Penn, he wouldn’t be the last. His son, David Wilkins, V’86, followed in his footsteps at Penn Vet and joined the clinic after graduation. David’s wife, Elizabeth Song Wilkins, WG’86, graduated the same year from Penn. Their son John Samuel, W’23, named after his grandfathers, graduated this past May.
Earlier this year, to commemorate Jack’s 100th birthday, the Wilkins family established an endowed scholarship in his memory. The resulting Wilkins Family Endowed Scholarship Fund in memory of John Langley Wilkins, V’52, will provide financial support to graduate students in the School of Veterinary Medicine.
“We are immensely grateful to the Wilkins family,” says Penn Vet’s Associate Dean of Institutional Advancement Hyemi Sevening. “Their gift honors Jack’s memory in a way that will open doors for future generations of students who believe in the essential, life-saving role of veterinary medicine.”
The Wilkins family also sees how Penn Vet is playing an increasingly vital role in addressing global issues—from sustainable agriculture to infectious and zoonotic diseases. “These are generational challenges,” says Elizabeth. “The work of a veterinarian is more challenging and important than ever before. We view this scholarship as a wonderful way to honor the past and have a positive influence on the future, especially for students from Delaware.”
For students like Alexis Massey, V’26, and David Vega, V’26, the impact of a scholarship lasts far beyond the four years it takes to earn a VMD.
To learn more about giving to Penn Vet, contact Hyemi Sevening, Associate Dean of Institutional Advancement, at (215) 370-1043 or email@example.com.