“Pay it Forward” is a philosophy that Dr. Sandra Strandberg preaches
and practices. The concept of encouraging acts of kindness is second
nature for the Ferris State University alumnus, whose gratefulness
for her own opportunities in life prompted her to make financial
contributions that will make others’ life journeys easier.
Strandberg has created an endowment fund to provide scholarships
for undergraduates at Ferris who want to care for animals. The Sandra
Kay Strandberg Endowed Scholarship will be awarded annually
to students working toward a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Pre-
Veterinary Medicine) in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“Animals provide unconditional love,” Strandberg said. “We need to
take care of them.”
The endowment for future veterinarians is just one way she is helping
to ensure that care.
Five years ago, Strandberg opened the Pay It Forward Animal
Outreach Veterinary Clinic in Muskegon, a nonprofit that provides
low-cost vaccines and basic veterinary care to families suffering
from financial hardship.
The walk-in clinic, at 90 S. Seaway Drive, was named after the 2000
movie “Pay It Forward” starring Hayley Joel Osment as a young boy
who launches a goodwill movement for a school assignment. In the
spirit of paying it forward, the clinic also offers community networking
options and a pet food bank.
Strandberg is proud of the clinic, which has served more than
6,500 Muskegon-area families since its inception. She and another
veterinarian and staff members provide vaccinations, heartworm
tests, urinalysis, ear exams, flea, tick and heartworm preventatives;
they refer clients to the West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic for
low-cost surgeries and to Grand Rapids-area animal centers for
low-cost dental care and more extensive medical care.
“There is a tremendous need here,” Strandberg said. “I feel privileged
I have been able to help meet that need.”
Strandberg was born and raised in Muskegon; she and her husband,
Floyd, a retired educator, graduated from Reeths Puffer High School
“I dreamed of being a veterinarian since I was 5 years old, but there
were no women in veterinary medicine then, so I was encouraged
to go into nursing,” said Strandberg, who graduated from Hackley
School of Nursing in Muskegon in 1970.
During the next 20 years, Strandberg moved to Big Rapids, where
she worked as a nurse, served a three-year stint with her husband as
residence hall directors in Ferris’ Henderson and Brophy/McNerney
halls, earned a degree in Allied Health Teacher Education, taught
classes at the university and had two children.
When her son started college in 1987, she returned to school, too,
earning an associate degree in Pre-Veterinary Medicine from Ferris.
In 1994, at age 44, she earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree
from Michigan State University.
“I feel very privileged and grateful that I had the opportunity to work
as a nurse, then go back to school and realize my dream of being a
veterinarian,” she said.
In 2002, she and her husband returned to Muskegon to be closer
“When people ask me where I went to school, I always say Ferris,”
said Strandberg, who also has donated to various Muskegon County
charities “dear to my heart.” “I raised my children in Big Rapids —
I consider Big Rapids our home. The endowment was an opportunity
for me to say, ‘hey, I appreciate the time, the employment, the
instructors and the education that Ferris provided me.’”
Rick Kurtz, dean of Ferris’ College of Arts and Sciences, said
Strandberg’s endowment for students majoring in Pre-Veterinary
Medicine is inspiring.
“Ferris State University has many bright, eager young adults who
are often financially challenged,” Kurtz said. “It is because of the
passion and generosity of alumni like Sandi that we are able to help
provide a pathway to success for current and future generations of
For more information about the clinic, which is open from 10 a.m. to
3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, call (231) 343-3797.
Paying It Forward
College of Arts and Sciences alumna achieves dream, gives back
By Betsy Musolf