When longtime Alamosa, Colorado, veterinarian Ben Konishi (D.V.M., ’50) passed away in 2018, generations of his grateful clients contributed to a Colorado State University scholarship established in his honor by his family. Their combined gifts of $15,000 are now supporting the dreams of a third-year veterinary student who represents Konishi’s dedication to hard work, academic rigor, and rural animal care.
Alamosa native Erica (Sinclair) Shannon received the Ben Konishi FFA Veterinarian Scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year, but her connection to “Doc Ben” started much earlier. “I watched Dr. Konishi perform an emergency C-section on one of my cousins’ Boer does and was immediately fascinated,” she recalls. “I later had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Konishi at his clinic before sixth-grade classes started at 8 a.m.”
Shannon’s passion for rural veterinary medicine continued to grow through her involvement in her high school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. She chose CSU for her undergraduate degree in equine science because of the university’s involvement with FFA, 4-H, and rural extension services.
Like Konishi, she graduated magna cum laude and chose to continue her journey through CSU’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program. As she continues a year of busy clinical rotations in the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and begins thinking about post-graduation career plans Shannon is grateful for a scholarship that has lessened her dependence on student loans.
Konishi always understood the value of helping others and giving back to his community. He was born in Fort Lupton, Colo., in 1926, and grew up in nearby Platteville, where his family owned a dairy, which was unusual in the local Japanese American community of farmers. He knew he wanted to become a veterinarian by fifth grade and remained committed through high school graduation, where he served as class valedictorian – though he had to share the title with another student due to anti-Japanese American discrimination.
After graduating from Colorado A&M’s veterinary school (now CSU) in 1950, Konishi moved to Monte Vista to work with Arthur G. Wadleigh (D.V.M., 1910), a fellow alum and member of the veterinary college’s first graduating class.
Two years later, he opened his own practice in Alamosa, where he served several generations of ranching families and became known for his ability to quickly check cows for pregnancy by crowding them into an enclosed pen, rather than checking them one by one in a chute. During his 66-year career in the San Luis Valley, he never charged students involved in FFA or 4-H for animal care.
His clients remembered that generosity with their own after his passing at the age of 92. “Thank you to all who contributed to Ben’s scholarship fund,” said his wife, Bessie. “Our family gratefully acknowledges that the majority of contributions were from Ben’s clients and friends. He would have been pleased that the scholarship was given to an applicant with outstanding academic records and that her goal is to serve the rural population.”
His daughter Pam, who lives in Fort Collins and works in human health, echoes her mother’s sentiments: “Dad always said he had the best clients in the world. And they proved it with their generosity.”