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Dr. James Stewart poses with students Kaitlyn Moss, Erika Klemp, and Patrick Pilon at the Opportunity Scholarship reception

Opportunity Scholarship Program

Founded in 1998 by beloved faculty member and mentor, Dr. Charles W. Raker V'42, the Opportunity Scholarship Program remains one of the School’s most inspiring initiatives. 

In addition to the financial benefits of the program, students benefit tremendously from mentorship for the duration of their scholarship.

It comes as no surprise that support from a caring mentor or sponsor can be key to a student’s success in an era when the demands on students have never been greater – both educationally and financially.

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Opportunity Scholarship in the News

About the Opportunity Scholarship Program

Recognizing the growing need for financial assistance and the long-term benefits of establishing aDr. Charles Raker, VMD relationship between students and alumni, Dr. Charles W. Raker, V’42 worked closely with the school to establish a scholarship program whose mission would be to foster scholarship support and mentoring opportunities for future veterinarians trained at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine. It is through his vision, determination and tireless efforts that the Opportunity Scholarship Program was established in 1998 and continues to thrive. Over 250 students and alumni have been a part of the Opportunity Scholarship program.

The "4 C's"

Dr. Raker will be forever known for his "4 C's" that he instilled in all he taught and mentored. These are to be a caring, compassionate, committed person, and to always communicate.

Opportunity Scholarship Facts & Figures

  • Established in 1998
  • 300+ veterinary students awarded
  • 19 Endowed Opportunity Scholarships
  • 150+ mentors
  • $3+ million in scholarship awarded since its inception
  • $185,000 award in Opportunity Scholarships in FY18
  • $167,535 Average debt of veterinary students (according to the AVMA for 2016 veterinary school graduates)


The Charles W. Raker V'42 Award is presented by the Opportunity Scholarship students to recognize any member of the Penn Vet School community who they feel best exemplifies the core values of the OS program. The award is designed to recognize the sincere desire to assist the professional development of students and the veterinary profession by excellent mentoring, communication, example and encouragement.

Charles W. Raker V'42 Award Recipients
Leonard Donato, VMD '96
Michael Pesato, DVM
2018Stephen Cole, VMD '15
2017La’Toya Latney, DVM
2016Susan Lindborg, LVT & Catherine Hinton
2013Janik Gasiorowski, VMD '07
2012Maria Schnobrich, VMD ’08
David Holt, BVSc & Rose Nolen-Walston, DVM
The Opportunity Scholarship Founders Award was established in 2018 on the 20th Anniversary of the program. The Founders Awards recognizes the considerable efforts and accomplishments of alumni who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the program and mentorship of veterinary students and who have made a profound impact through their years of dedication and service to the School.
OS Founders Award Recipients
James V'68 & Brenda V'70 Stewart
2021Virginia B. Reef, DVM
2020Marilyn B. Weber V'75
Charles W. Koenig, VMD '57
2018D. Ray Hostetter, VMD '69

Opportunity Scholarship Profiles

The Students

Opportunity Scholarship students recognize the unique chance to gain knowledge through the wisdom and wealth of experiences of a mentor, along with the support a mentor provides as they continue their personal career development.

Charlotte Burns, V'19

Opportunity Scholarship: Charlotte Burns V'19

Charlotte Burns, V'19, hails from Sicklerville, New Jersey. Her special interests include emergency and critical care and shelter medicine. To date, her favorite class at Penn Vet has been clinical pathology. After graduation, she hopes to move to New York City for an internship and residency in emergency and critical care.

“I am beyond thankful to receive such a generous gift. Scholarships like this remind me that our alumni want us to succeed and they genuinely care about our futures. This scholarship will allow me to afford an internship, and hopefully residency. I hope to become boarded in emergency medicine, where I can help owners and their pets during their worst days. I am also hoping to aid in animal abuse cases via forensic medicine and directly in the courtroom when I am not working as an emergency clinician. All of this might now be possible thanks to this generosity.”

Charlotte Burns, V’19, Opportunity Scholarship recipient

The Mentors

Mentors serve an important role by providing guidance, exposure and information related to a student's career interests and goals. They give further insight into the field of veterinary medicine, sharing knowledge and experiences and offer additional support to students during their time in veterinary school. Relationships between students and mentors are often continued long after graduation.


Jim Stewart, V'68 & Brenda Stewart, V'70

Opportunity Scholarship Sponsors, Jim and Brenda Stewart

Jim Stewart, V’68 and Brenda Stewart, V’70  have both dedicated countless hours to Penn Vet in the form of membership in the Development and Opportunity Scholarship committees, and are members of the Dean's Alumni Council.

“Giving back to the vet school that first gave me the opportunity to be a veterinarian is the easy part.

"Being able to find enough funds to help students decrease their total average debt loads of $160,000 is the hard part. This giving back assistance should be an unending obligation,” explains Jim.

“A Penn education begins with appreciation and support of all interests and directions of veterinary medicine. It then teaches using reasoning, not reaction, to solve problems, hands on clinical skills, and researchers’ instincts without doing research. This is a philosophy we must support and maintain.”

The Stewarts are the sponsors of the Drs. James & Brenda Stewart Endowed Opportunity Scholarship and have mentored several Opportunity Scholars throughout the program's history.

The Legacy: Opportunity Scholarship Alumni

Alumni reflect the success of this unique program. They are forever members of the Opportunity Scholarship community. Some program alumni have had the chance to continue participating by becoming mentors themselves, knowing first-hand the benefits of a mentor program.


Dr. Molly Church

Molly Church, V'09

Molly Church, V’09, was raised in Sacramento, CA and received her BA in Environmental Sciences and BS in Ecology and Evolution from the University of California - Santa Cruz.

She also received her MS in Environmental Toxicology from UC - Santa Cruz and is now Assistant Professor, Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Molly was the recipient of the The Anna Kunkick Emeigh Memorial Opportunity Scholarship, a two-year Specialty Opportunity Scholarship given in the student’s third year by Veterinary Alumni Board Member and Alumni Award of Merit recipient Susan G. Emeigh Hart, V'83 PhD, and her husband William J Hart.

Zachary Kern, V'14

Zach Kern, V'14

“The OS program has been one of the most influential aspects of my veterinary education.

More than the funding itself, the connections I’ve formed with my peers in the program as well as the sponsors and mentors have been invaluable in shaping my future goals and figure out how to achieve them.

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity (no pun intended) to be surrounded by such inspired people, and am excited to welcome the newest members of the program to share in this amazing tradition at Penn Vet.”

Where is Dr. Kern today?

Dr. Zachary Kern is completing his residency in internal medicine at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Inspiration: Supporting Our Scholars

Those who support this program play a significant part in realizing Dr. Raker's vision and help to continue his legacy of pursuing this honorable craft.

Gwen Fernich Lowitt, V'94, and Gary Lowitt, C'87

Gwen Fernich Lowitt, V'94 and her father Fred Fernich, V'63Following a Penn Vet tradition, Gwen Fernich Lowitt, V’94, received her veterinary degree from her father, Fred Fernich, V’63. Tragically, Dr. Lowitt’s career and life were cut short by a rare form of cancer she struggled with for 11 years. She lost her fight on May 6, 2007, at the age of 39.

Early in her career, Dr. Lowitt completed an internship at Oradell Animal Hospital in Oradell, NJ, and then served as a staff doctor at Oradell for seven years. After her illness made it impossible for her to work full time, she practiced part time as a relief veterinarian at various animal hospitals in New York City, including Abingdon Square, Gramercy Park, and Heart of Chelsea. 

To recognize his wife’s love of learning and animals — and her contributions to veterinary medicine — Gary Lowitt, C’87 — along with Gwen’s parents Dr. and Mrs. Fernich — established the Gwen Fernich Lowitt, V’94, Memorial Endowed Opportunity Scholarship.

Gwen and Gary Lowitt“Gwen loved being a vet. Continuing to work as much as possible, even as she became sicker and sicker, helped her to feel ‘normal.’ She was a remarkable person, in every respect, who touched everyone fortunate enough to know her,” Gary said.

“I wanted to do something to honor Gwen’s memory, and knew it should involve Penn Vet. She was so humble and selfless, she would never have wanted a plaque with her name attached to a classroom or a piece of equipment; that just wasn’t her. Gwen valued education and always looked to expand her knowledge of veterinary medicine and to mentor younger vets to become better doctors. Funding this scholarship for veterinary students is the perfect way to keep alive her true generosity of spirit.” 

The scholarship was awarded for the first time to student Allison Goodman, V’11.

Endowed Opportunity Scholarships

  • Class of 1968 Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Camille DeClementi V'94 Opportunity Scholarship
  • Gwen Fernich V'94 Memorial Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Lillian Giuliani V'57 Opportunity Scholarship
  • Jay Jasan V'93 Memorial Opportunity Scholarship
  • D. Ray Hostetter V'69 Family Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Alan M. Kelly Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Robert M. Kenney Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Sandra and Charles Koenig V'57 Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Ben Martin V'80 Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Charles Raker V'42 Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Kenton D. Rexford V'94 Opportunity Scholarship
  • Carol Rinehart Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Kenneth J. Rubin V'64 Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • M. Lynn Sammons Opportunity Scholarship
  • Raymond Spiller Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • James V'68 & Brenda V'70 Stewart Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Ann Q. Taylor Scholarship
  • The Thoroughbred Education & Research Fund (TERF) Endowed Opportunity Scholarship
  • Dr. Timothy Mann Opportunity Scholarship
  • Dr. Jeffrey A. Wortman V'69 Opportunity Scholarship