A transformational gift of $5 million by the estate of Seth and Lucy Holcombe will establish the Dr. Harry Werner Professorship in Equine Medicine at New Bolton Center, the large animal hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet).

The endowed chair is named for the Holcombe’s veterinarian and life-long friend Harry Werner, a 1974 Penn Vet graduate. Werner cared for the Holcombe’s Morgan horses since the early days of his career, working as a veterinarian in Granby, Conn.

The professorship will include teaching, research, and clinical outreach, with an emphasis on equine welfare and wellness, important to both the Holcombes and Werners.

Penn Vet is conducting an international search for candidates, with a goal of awarding the professorship in 2017.

“We are delighted that Dr. Werner’s clients have honored him with this wonderful gift to improve the lives of horses through a new program at New Bolton Center,” says Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Harry is a very distinguished alumnus, and we are extremely proud of his achievements globally to support equine welfare. This will provide a permanent tribute to him.”

Dr. Harry WernerAlthough Werner and his wife, Susan, were close friends with the Holcombes, the gift came as a surprise. A family lawyer delivered the news after Lucy Holcombe’s death at age 91 in January 2016. Seth Holcombe died at age 91 in 2009.

“We had no idea,” says Werner, about the donation in his honor. “Susan and I feel responsible for making sure this gift does what the Holcombes wanted it to do. We want this to enhance the health and welfare of horses.”

The professorship will be the centerpiece of what they intend to become a broader program for equine wellness and welfare, attracting international speakers and reaching out to populations of working horses in need.

“This gift will allow Penn Vet to truly take a lead in providing direction on equine wellbeing and welfare to both our profession and the horse industry,” says Gary Althouse, chairman of the Department of Clinical Studies at New Bolton Center. “The ability to dedicate significant efforts to these critical initiatives is truly transformational.”

Althouse says the new equine professorship builds upon a New Bolton Center initiative for large animal welfare, including participation in specialty training for board certification by the new American College of Animal Welfare.

Werner has dedicated his life and career to the care and welfare of animals through his practice, Werner Equine, in North Granby and his continued service to veterinary professional organizations at state, national, and international levels.

He was the 2009 president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and is now part of the AAEP’s Welfare and Public Policy Advisory Council. He’s also on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee and World Equine Veterinary Association’s Board of Directors.

Werner speaks internationally and has authored many articles on equine welfare, equine lameness, pre-purchase exams, farrier-veterinarian relationships, and veterinary ethics.

Werner is a member of the International Equine Veterinarian Hall Of Fame.