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To fulfill a lifelong learner's wishes

eric and biggenThe love that parents feel for their children can never be broken. As such, David and Cheryl Honsberger’s hearts are–and will always be–filled with memories of their son Eric, who died in a scuba diving accident in August of 2005. He was just 30 years old. To ensure that his memory lives on, they have held on to two of Eric’s passions, dogs and education.

Eric and his girls, a Rottweiler by the name of Biggen and a rescued Rottweiler named Skyler, were a family. When Biggen became sick in June of 2005, she was referred to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, where for the remaining two years of her life she was treated by veterinarians in the internal medicine, ophthalmology, and oncology services. Skylar was also a patient at Cornell in 2007, diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

“Eric was a salvage and recovery diver in the Navy, so the girls [Biggen and Skylar] would stay with us periodically,” said David, explaining that Eric dove around the world with the Navy. “When Eric passed, the girls came to live with us permanently. Biggen was already a patient at Cornell, and given the extent of her illnesses, Cornell became a big part of our lives after Eric died. The girls, and the rescue dogs we have now, are one of the ways we remain connected to Eric.”

Eric, who was committed to learning and doing anything he hadn’t already done, was also an advocate for education. He believed, David said, that education should be an individual’s right. After Eric completed his active duty in the Navy, he began his college career, taking courses at Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University, Monroe Community College, the University of Rochester, and Rochester Institute of Rochester, where he pursued his mathematics degree. He was scheduled to graduate in March 2006. Eric was inducted into the Phi Theta Knappa Society, the International Scholastic Order of the two-year college and attained membership in the National Scholars Honor Society.

“Eric and I talked a lot,” recalled David. “In one conversation, we talked about charities and donations, and contributing to worthy causes. As Eric matured and developed a deeper understanding of his values and goals, he realized that being a student for the rest of his life would make him very happy.”

In recognition of Eric’s two passions–dogs and education–and in memory of Eric, David and Cheryl have established the Eric G. Honsberger Endowed Memorial Scholarship at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine through an advised bequest. Ultimately, the scholarship will support a student who is enrolled in the DVM program at Cornell, a person, David and Cheryl hope, who Eric would have trusted with his girls’ well-being.

“Long-term, we hope that there will be two funds,” said David. “The second will be for research that will help improve the quality of life for man's best friend.”