Endowed Chair in Equine Orthopedics Announced at Colorado State University

Note to Editors: A print-quality photo of Ken Atkinson is available at www.newsinfo.colostate.edu. Click on the headline for this release to access the photo.

Colorado State University today announced the establishment of a college endowed chair in the memory of long-time equine sciences supporters Ken and Virginia Atkinson. The chair will reside in the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center and is the third chair named to an equine field in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in six months.

The Ken and Virginia Atkinson Chair for Musculoskeletal Imaging honors the Atkinsons for more than 25 years of support to various equine activities and research at the university. Ken Atkinson, a namesake for the Adams-Atkinson Arena at the university’s equine center, died in August 2004. His wife, Virginia, died in December 2005. The couple had willed an endowment to the university to support research.

"The Atkinsons were outstanding supporters of Colorado State University and its pioneering equine science programs, and this endowment continues their legacy of commitment to advancing the science of equine medicine," said Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State University.

The $1.2 million gift from the Atkinson estate for the chair compliments a previous donation of $500,000 given to the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center in 2003 to purchase an MRI, helping to establish the first equine MRI center in the world. The MRI center is currently under the leadership of Dr. Natasha Werpy, an assistant professor of large animal radiology in the Department of Clinical Sciences.

"Because of the contributions of Ken and Virginia, the equine MRI program at Colorado State is today recognized as the center of knowledge in the world within this area," said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, director of the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State. "In addition, their contributions have previously helped build one of the finest equine sciences programs in the nation here at the university as well as provide major support to our Equine Orthopaedic Research Center."

The chair is the fourth chair in the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center and the eighth chair in the college. Other recent chairs include the Abigail K. Kawananakoa Chair in Equine Musculoskeletal Integrative Therapies, announced in November 2007 and given to the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, and the Iron Rose Ranch Chair in Equine Reproduction endowed to the Equine Reproduction Laboratory. Both facilities are international leaders in their field.

"The MRI imaging services and research at the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center continue to set the bar for equine radiology around the world," said Dr. Lance Perryman, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "This chair will allow the university to pursue research, develop medical solutions and treat the world’s finest equine athletes. In addition, it further allows researchers to make discoveries in the field of orthopedic medicine that may improve the quality of life for humans and other animals facing orthopedic injuries."

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is the gold standard for identifying joint disease in humans and the best technique for non-invasive joint evaluation.

Atkinson was a former Horseman of the Year, elected by the Colorado Horse Council. His horses often were clients of the veterinary medicine teaching program at the university. Before his death, during remarks at the dedication of the Adams-Atkinson arena in 1994, Ken Atkinson expressed his thoughts on donating to the university and making a contribution toward education.

"Colorado has been good to me," he said. "Besides being a wonderful place to live, I have prospered here. I wanted to find a way to put something back, but I wanted it to be a place where the results would benefit this fine state for many years to come.

"I believe the future of our nation depends on how well we educate and motivate our young people. At CSU, I see hundreds of bright young faces with clean, wholesome expressions looking forward with clear and honest eyes. They impress me as being the kinds of people I would feel comfortable entrusting with the future well-being of our country. What better way to make a contribution than to help these fine young people get a good start?"