Parents of CFAES undergrad Austin Ayars launch memorial scholarship funds
“We would like to make a significant impact in memory of our son. As teachers and educators, we realize the need to give back to kids,” said Bonnie Ayars, dairy program specialist at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Her son, Austin Ayars, a 2003 CFAES graduate and a 2007 graduate of Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, died tragically in a 2015 farm accident. At age 34, Austin left behind a wife, son, daughter, and another son on the way. Today, Bonnie Ayars and her husband, John, hope to look toward the future by creating two scholarship funds in Austin’s memory.
The Dr. Austin Ayars Memorial Scholarship fund in Animal Sciences will provide one or more scholarships. Undergraduate students enrolled in the CFAES Department of Animal Sciences are eligible to apply for the scholarship. Preference will be given to candidates who are participating in the Veterinary Early Commitment Program with intention to pursue bovine/dairy medicine or large/farm animal medicine.
The second fund will be for Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine students pursuing a career in bovine/dairy medicine. However, if there are no students interested in bovine/dairy medicine, the scholarship will be open to any veterinary student interested in pursuing a career in food/farm animal medicine.
The scholarship fund became an idea in the Ayars’ barn by Eric Gordon, DVM, professor at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. While on a farm visit, Gordon asked the Ayars for suggestions on how to invest the money donated by classmates after Austin’s death. With considerable thought, John and Bonnie expressed a desire to continue Austin’s legacy. They hoped to invest in students who shared Austin’s passion for large animals. As a result, John and Bonnie provided an initial gift of $100,000 for each scholarship fund. They are hoping additional contributions will be forthcoming to sustain scholarship funding well into the future.
Those who knew Austin grew to appreciate his talents and charismatic personality. University staff shared their memories about Austin.
Gordon, who has taught more than 2,400 students in his nearly 17 years at Ohio State, shared his memories: “While I taught numerous students, Austin made the greatest impact. He left an impact on everyone he came across. He had a way of influencing those around him in a positive way.”
Gordon recalls the first time he took Austin to a dairy farm as part of his fourth-year clinical rotation. On the way to the farm, Gordon told students the farmer wasn’t comfortable allowing veterinary students to perform certain medical procedures on cows, but that didn’t sit well with Austin. Upon arriving at the farm, he greeted the farmer, had a brief conversation, and was given permission to perform all medical procedures on his cows. Austin was the only student the farmer ever allowed to do so.
““You didn’t forget Austin. He had a presence that filled the room,””Eric Gordon, DVM
“Those who knew Austin loved his infectious personality. Austin was dedicated to the pursuit of learning. Austin also had great leadership skills that he employed in extracurricular activities,” Eastridge said.
During Austin’s time as an undergraduate in CFAES, he spent hours tutoring other students. He served as CFAES Student Council president. In addition, Austin was an active member of the Buckeye Dairy Club and Collegiate 4-H.
“Austin was passionate about becoming a veterinarian,” Eastridge added. “The scholarships awarded to students who are pursuing a career as a large animal practitioner will lessen their financial stress. This will reduce some of their need to work in covering tuition and living expenses. Students who earn the scholarship can focus on their passion and gain valuable experience by joining extracurricular programs. It’s truly an honor for The Ohio State University to have these two separate scholarships named in Austin’s memory.”
Austin comes from a legacy of Ohio State graduates. Eighteen members of his family hold degrees from Ohio State, including his parents. Although both John and Bonnie have a history in education, they consider themselves farmers first and foremost.
John and Bonnie continue to manage a 1,000-acre farm, a working dairy, an event center, and market their own brand of cheese and ice cream. Austin worked alongside his mother, father, and brothers while growing up on the family farm, which is where he developed a love for dairy cattle and a positive work ethic.
““Austin had a special gift that came from his ability to communicate with both people and animals,” ”John Ayars
“He loved the challenge of pulling together all the facts to create the end product or diagnosis. He did just that as a veterinarian, an amateur mechanic, and a husband and father.”
John and Bonnie are spreading their message about Austin to encourage others to contribute to these two separate endowments. They have set a goal to raise $2 million—$1 million for each scholarship fund. “Our goal is to share stories and memories about Austin to encourage others to participate,” the couple shared.
To contribute to the Austin Ayars Memorial Scholarship Fund in Animal Sciences, which is awarded to Ohio State CFAES students in the Department of Animal Sciences, click on this link. Those who wish to also contribute to the Dr. Austin Ayars Memorial Scholarship Fund in Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State, can click here.
For more information about the CFAES Department of Animal Sciences, click here.