Alumni Fellows' presentations to students emphasize K-State connection

K-State Alumni Communications

Dr. Tara Donovan, the 2015 K-State Alumni Fellow for the College of Veterinary Medicine, lectures to students and faculty on her career in food animal medicine. (Photo courtesy Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine)

Each year since 1983, the K-State Alumni Fellows program has brought successful alumni back to campus. This year, from April 15-18, 12 alumni were honored with the award and returned to Kansas State University's Manhattan campus.

One of the highlights of the Fellows’ return to campus is the opportunity to speak to current K-State students. Each Fellow gives a unique presentation, focusing on his or her career since graduating from K-State, giving advice to students as they prepare to enter the workforce or sharing examples of how they put their K-State education to use after graduation.

Dr. Tara Donovan is the 2015 Alumni Fellow for the College of Veterinary Medicine. Donovan, vice president of health management at The Hanor Company in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and 1998 graduate of K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about her career in food animal medicine. 

During the porcine epidemic diarrhea outbreak that spread across swine farms in the United States in 2013, Donovan was faced with a tough decision. She paused and noticeably withheld emotion when explaining just how hard it was for her to humanely euthanize thousands of pigs.

“There was nothing we could do for them,” Donovan said.

Donovan’s commitment to excellence in her work is a trait she carries with her from her time at K-State. She instills this passion for animal care in all the members of the staff she works with.

In another classroom across campus, J.P. Bilbrey, a 1978 K-State graduate with a degree in psychology, gave a brief history of how he became chief executive officer for The Hershey Company. He offered advice to students in the leadership studies program and answered questions at the end of the session. Bilbrey is one of two 2015 Alumni Fellows for the College of Arts and Sciences.

One student asked how to better develop himself as a student to prepare for the job market.

“It may sound cliché, but make your bed every day. If you can’t commit to doing that, how are you going to instill discipline in any other area of your life? If you can’t do it, someone else can,” Bilbrey said.

J.P. Bilbrey, one of the two 2015 K-State Alumni Fellows for the College of Arts and Sciences, lectures to students about his career leading up to becoming chief executive officer for The Hershey Company. (Photo: David Mayes)
Bilbrey also recalled the most valuable part of his K-State experience: the faculty and staff. He noted the importance of networking and meeting the right people. Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, left a memorable impression on Bilbrey.

“Pat Bosco has been a lifelong friend and mentor to me. Pat saw things in me I hadn’t had a chance to discover. Don’t underestimate the value of relationships and experiences while you are here,” Bilbrey said.

As alumni, the Fellows bring back a message to K-State students that continues to ring true: They carried something special with them from their time at K-State, whether it was the people, the education or the skills they needed to be successful.

To learn more about the 2015 Alumni Fellows, visit To view more photos from the Alumni Fellows' campus lectures, visit the K-State Alumni Association on Facebook.

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