Bartlett's AU Legacy Lives On in Form of Scholarships

by Mike Jernigan

According to Reid Hanson, professor of equine sports medicine and surgery at Auburn’s J.T. Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital, the late Haywood B. “Woody” Bartlett ’64, while a young boy, once told his physician father he wanted to be a cowboy. His father had other plans and disapproved, but his mother told him to follow his dreams. In the years that followed, not only did Bartlett become a veterinarian and cowboy himself, he became a patron of others with similar dreams.

Early in his career, Bartlett, who died in June 2021 at the age of 84, owned a mobile veterinary practice and ranch in Pike Road, Alabama; but as his subsidiary horse and cattle operation grew, he launched primarily into breeding and buying horses and acquired a larger ranch in Wyoming. Bartlett used his ranches to help train a generation of Auburn large animal vet students and potential cowboys from across the country over the last quarter century of his life, a legacy Hanson says was most appropriate.

One of the ways Bartlett helped train Auburn students was by holding a castration clinic at one or the other of his ranches every March that allowed groups of Auburn large animal students, supervised by several of their professors, to castrate about 50 yearling horses each year. “Woody supplied all the food, equipment and staff, Hanson recalled, “and the students did all the work. It was great hands-on experience for them and we did that every spring for 25 years.”

In June of each year, Bartlett invited aspiring cowboys from all over the country to his 500,000-acre Wyoming ranch for an intense 10-day breaking clinic led by former professional rodeo rider Bill Smith. Frequent guests included Hanson and other Auburn professors, veterinary dean Calvin Johnson, and the late former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye, one of Bartlett’s closest friends.

“Woody had two true loves in addition to horses — furthering the education of Auburn veterinary students and helping to ensure the continuation of the cowboy lifestyle,” Hanson recalled. “He became a vet at Auburn, and he was also a world-class horse breeder, but Woody was always a cowboy at heart. He generally avoided the spotlight, but his legacy lives on in all the vet students he influenced and the cowboys he helped to learn the ropes.”

Bartlett’s legacy of influencing Auburn students also lives on in the form of the Dr. Haywood Bellingrath Bartlett, Sr., Scholarship Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine, which awards multiple annual tuition and fees scholarships to students in large animal medicine, surgery and/or theriogenology. The one-year scholarships are renewable for students who remain in good academic standing and are one way the Auburn CVM is helping to address the serious nationwide shortage of large animal vets.

Jesse Neal ’24 and Lexie Craig ’26 are both Kentucky students and recipients of Bartlett Scholarships. Each says it has made a tremendous impact on both their current studies and their future plans. “I have always been interested in large animal medicine,” Neal explained, when asked how the scholarship has affected his goals. “While this scholarship did not influence my love for large animal medicine, it has allowed me to pursue production medicine sooner than I would have been able to otherwise.

“Receiving this scholarship has been one of the greatest blessings I could have imagined,” he added. “It has decreased my student debt load, meaning I have been able to pursue my dream as a large animal veterinarian directly out of school. I recently accepted a job as a mixed animal practitioner on the border between Kentucky and Indiana. I am excited to work as an ambulatory veterinarian that will hopefully help with the rural veterinary crisis.”

Like Neal, Craig also came to Auburn predisposed toward large animal medicine. “I’m part of a three-generation farming family and grew up in rural Kentucky,” she noted. “I have been involved with several aspects of large animal husbandry, but increased my efforts into large animal medicine once I was an undergrad and was shadowing at a mixed animal practice. A lot of my passions transferred into my undergraduate studies, where I became more focused on large animal theriogenology.

Not only did receiving a Bartlett Scholarship help ease the debt burden of veterinary school, Craig said it also helped ease her transition into the Auburn community. “Kentucky residents attend Auburn as an in-state school, but most of us do not have any connections here and are far removed from our support systems. Having the cost of tuition covered alleviated some of the financial burden and stress I would have gone through on my educational journey, so I could focus more on my educational pursuits without worrying about finances. Coming from a small rural community and a farming family, this scholarship has meant more than words can express.”

Jemma Constant ’24 is yet another student that arrived at Auburn with an interest in large animal studies. But like many other college students today, she soon found the costs of attending veterinary school threatened to overwhelm her veterinary dreams.

Bartlett Scholarship recipients spend time with members of the Bartlett family at the Evening of Gratitude event.

“I have had a strong passion for horses since I was young, and I always knew I wanted to practice equine medicine,” she said. “However, after rotating through the Food Animal rotation during my clinical year, I found a new love for cattle and small ruminants as well.

“But I was constantly under financial stress and worried about how I was going to manage to pay off all my loans,” she added. “Especially being an out-of-state student, during my first and second years of vet school, I worked two jobs to try and avoid having to take out private loans on top of the federal loans I was already receiving. This put an immense amount of stress on me as I tried to balance studying and working.

Fortunately, receiving a Bartlett Scholarship allowed Constant to focus her priorities entirely on her studies. “Getting this scholarship was truly an answer to prayers,” she said. “I was able to focus on my veterinary career and spend my extra time engaging in research opportunities and working with the clinicians at Auburn, which really helped when the time came to ask for letters of recommendation. I have recently accepted an internship at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, and am considering applying for a large animal surgical residency position.

“This unbelievably generous scholarship has made an enormous difference in my life,” Constant concluded. “Not only has it allowed me to focus on my studies and immerse myself in what it means to become a good doctor, but it has also encouraged me to want to give back to the community what has been given to me. I wish I could have met Dr. Bartlett in person to tell him how incredibly grateful I am. I will carry his generosity with me throughout my veterinary career and look forward to giving back to the large animal community after I graduate.”

Like the others, Colby Gay ’25 arrived at Auburn already interested in large animal medicine. “I came into vet school wanting to practice production agricultural medicine with an interest in advanced reproductive techniques,” he said. “My current plans are to return to Florida and practice production beef cattle medicine throughout the panhandle, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. I would like to do some stockyard work as well.”

As with most recipients, Gay is grateful for having the financial burden of veterinary school reduced, but for him, the reduced debt has practical applications as well. “This scholarship has been life-changing for me,” he noted. “Without it, I’m not sure I could pursue my goal of being a production medicine veterinarian. My loans will be much more affordable starting out, which will be especially helpful when I am trying to build and establish a mobile large animal practice. The reduction in debt will also allow me to be able to afford more equipment to better serve my clients and patients.”

Taylor Tuso ’23, who earned her Auburn DVM after his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M, is a past Bartlett recipient who is currently seeing the scholarship’s benefits impact her early career as a vet on the staff of the Equine Medical Center of Ocala, Florida.

“I became aware of the Bartlett Scholarships when I went to apply for the yearly scholarships available at Auburn,” she recalled. “The application required applicants to be large-animal-focused, and after reading about Dr. Bartlett and his goals for the scholarship, I decided to apply. I came to Auburn with a focus in equine medicine, but became more involved in food animal medicine through clubs and my time as a large animal student resident during my fourth year.”

As with the current students, having some of her debt burden reduced thanks to the scholarship allowed Tuso to concentrate more on her studies and to reach her goals sooner. “Receiving the Bartlett scholarship during my clinical year allowed me to accept my top choice internship and to spend a year focused on becoming the best equine veterinarian I could be without as much financial burden,” she said. “Without generous donors like Dr. Bartlett, veterinary students would not have access to scholarships to support and encourage them and their future career choices.

“As an equine veterinarian I cannot thank the scholarship donor enough for the impact they have had on my veterinary career,” Tuso concluded. “I’m confident the Bartlett Scholarships will continue supporting other large-animal-focused veterinary students in the future, just like mine did for me.”