“Unconditional love.” Nanette Parratto-Wagner (DVM ’85, PhD ’88) of Orlando says this is the pure gift humans receive from animals. From typical house pets to dogs in prison rehabilitation programs, to therapy animals for ill or disabled humans, animals offer a wealth of benefits for little more than some food and compassion in return.

Now in her retirement, Parratto-Wagner wants to do just one thing: leave the world a better place where animals and human beings can continue to benefit from each other. To this end, she and her husband, cancer researcher Dr. Tom Wagner, included the college in their wills. 

Parratto-Wagner says their estate gift will ultimately support the Dean’s Circle of Excellence fund since it provides for a myriad of student needs including scholarships, renovations of student facilities and advancements in teaching technology.

“I’m one of those people who think, ‘I don’t know what you need; tell me what you need,'” she says, adding that her contributions continue the tradition of philanthropy that her parents emphasized while she was growing up.

In addition to their estate gift, Parratto-Wagner made cash gifts in support of the new small animal hospital by naming an exam room.

“I wanted to be sure the people of Florida and the Southeast have access to the best possible care,” she says. To pay tribute to her parents, who taught her about the joys of philanthropy, she named the exam room for them and her first pet, O’Dee the Wonder Dog.

Parratto-Wagner says she initially felt pride over their decision to support the college. Since then her focus has turned to the impact of their gift.

“In life you’re supposed to give back, and you’re supposed to think about what has helped you use your talents the most,” she says. “My career has given me many things to be thankful for. … If we can’t take care of the creatures we’re blessed with, the rest of humanity doesn’t matter. These guys [animals] give us pleasure and our human dignity.

“I know what I paid in tuition is nowhere near the worth of my degree. When you give back, you get back much more than you think you’re getting. In the end it’s a very humbling experience.”

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