CORVALLIS - A long-time animal lover and businesswoman who died last August has left Oregon State University a $21 million bequest to benefit OSU's growing College of Veterinary Medicine. It is the second largest donation in the university's history.


The late Lois Bates Acheson, a 1937 OSU graduate who made the gift, was the owner of Black Ball Transport, a Washington-British Columbia ferry service. She had a lifelong interest in animals and created an endowed scholarship fund for OSU veterinary students 25 years ago.

Her bequest will boost the college's endowment, providing long-term supplemental funding for teaching, research, facilities and equipment.

"Mrs. Acheson's generous support of the College of Veterinary Medicine in her lifetime and through her estate is an unprecedented contribution that will help us build a top-ranked veterinary medicine program," said OSU President Ed Ray. "Oregon State University is incredibly grateful for her generosity, and we are dedicated to providing the quality training, veterinary care and research that her gift is meant to foster."

He added that the new opportunities presented by the gift fit well with OSU's land grant mission and strategic plan to strengthen programs that have significant economic impact and relevance for the Northwest and beyond.

Of the $21 million bequest, nearly half will benefit the College of Veterinary Medicine right away. The balance will remain in a trust for 10 years and then be disbursed to the college.

Although proceeds from the estate will be held in the endowment, the gift will enable college officials to move forward with a significant expansion of the large-animal clinic within the veterinary teaching hospital. The proposed expansion includes a lameness evaluation arena, larger imaging space, a free-standing isolation ward, faculty offices, research laboratories and an intensive care unit designed to meet the needs of mares with foals.

Dr. Howard Gelberg, dean of the college, says future endowment earnings will likely support a number of other priority areas, including state-of-the-art equipment normally not affordable by client fees; facility improvements, such as an expanded cancer treatment ward; and start-up packages to help recruit new teaching and research faculty in clinical specialties like oncology, dermatology, radiology, cardiology and surgery.

Acheson specified that $1.5 million from her estate will create the college's first endowed chair.

"I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Acheson a few years ago," Gelberg said. "She was a very thoughtful person. She enjoyed corresponding with the veterinary students her scholarship supported. And I'm sure she would be happy with the impact that her gift will have on the quality and scope of our programs."

To recognize Acheson, the college announced that it will rename its hospital the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

"It is a fitting tribute," Gelberg said. "Mrs. Acheson will always be associated with the quality teaching and referral care that we provide."

Acheson's niece, Donna Schoen, remembers her aunt as a caring animal lover who passed out treats to the neighborhood dogs. She says her aunt also served as a personal role model.

"Lois was the reason I attended Oregon State," Schoen said. "She always attributed her business success to her educational experience at OSU. She would be pleased with the impact her gift will have on the continuing growth and development of the College of Veterinary Medicine."

Acheson and her husband, Robert, owned a regional trucking company, Black Ball Freight Service, which operated 350 trucks in Washington and British Columbia. Later they started the ferry service Black Ball Transport. Robert Acheson died in 1963, only a few years after the ferry service was launched. Lois Acheson successfully led both companies for many years, selling the trucking company in 1975 to focus her attention on the ferry service.

Blackball Transport, Inc. operates the M.V. Coho, a Port Angeles, Wash.-Victoria, B.C. ferry with a capacity of 100 vehicles and 1,000 passengers.

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Dr. Howard Gelberg, 541-737-2098