Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 29, 2010. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Auburn veterinarian gets MSU degree after decades
IUKA – When Mississippi State University confers degrees to the class of 2010, a 1971 graduate of Auburn University can look on his wall to see proof that he is a 2009 MSU graduate.
Dr. James F. Perkins started his educational career at what is now Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville before transferring to MSU for two years.
“I took what we had to have to go to veterinary school,” Perkins said. “Back when I was going to school, my No. 1 goal was to be a veterinarian.”
MSU’s veterinary college graduated its first class in 1981. Before that, Perkins and other veterinary students from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee went to Auburn for their doctor of veterinary medicine degrees.
“Back when I went to Auburn, they said that if we have enough hours, we could petition Mississippi State to get a bachelor of science degree,” Perkins said. “But at the time, I wasn’t interested in a BS degree.”
Perkins said his loyalty has always been to MSU, even while he attended Auburn.
“When we went to Auburn, most of us were loyal to our home states. Then when we got out, we realized the school that taught us the most was Auburn, but we all still favor our home territory,” Perkins said.
Today, he cheers for both schools, but says it’s a tossup when they play each other in sports.
As time passed, someone reminded Perkins that he had the option at one point of receiving a bachelor’s degree from MSU because of the class hours earned at that institution and his completed work at Auburn.
“As I got older, I began to appreciate Mississippi State and what it does for the state and the country. I thought it would be nice to have a degree from MSU,” he said. “Later in life, the sentimental means a little more.”
Not knowing how to petition the university for the degree, he was put in contact with Carolyn Huntington, the undergraduate coordinator for MSU’s Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.
“I thought for a while it wasn’t going to happen, but she was diligent and got my petition going,” Perkins said.
The time lapse between Perkins’ original degree and his petition nearly 40 years later made this process unusual for Huntington.
“When this request was brought to my attention, the first thing I did was work with the dean’s office to pull his transcripts from 40 years ago and the degree requirements for when he was at MSU,” she said.
MSU offers a 3+1 program today for MSU students accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine. These students who complete the bachelor’s degree requirements minus free electives in three years rather than four are eligible to apply to CVM as juniors. If accepted, they earn their bachelor’s degree upon successful completion of the first year of veterinary school. Perkins’ degree petition was similar to this program.
“He essentially had everything he needed,” Huntington said. “I got the ball rolling at his request and helped him petition all these years later.”
Perkins said his diploma, a bachelor of science degree from MSU’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, arrived without fanfare in a manila envelope in his mailbox.
“I framed it and have it hanging on my wall in the exam room, the same room where I have my DVM diploma from Auburn,” Perkins said. “I’m proud of it and show it to as many people as I can.”
When Perkins graduated back in 1971, he started Iuka Animal Clinic, a small-town practice in northeast Mississippi. He works primarily with small animals, but does treat the occasional horse, cow or goat.
“I do a little bit of everything, but not exotics,” Perkins said. “If it flies or crawls, I try not to treat it.”
Perkins is from Corinth, and he and his wife Sandra Kay have six children ranging in age from 11 to 39, and 17 grandchildren. His oldest child graduated from MSU, and his youngest plans to attend MSU one day.
As part of his service to faithful clients, Perkins makes frequent donations to the CARE Fund at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The fund, which stands for Companion Animals Require Excellence, was created to address the need for constant improvements in veterinary medical teaching, research and service.
“We make donations at least monthly, and it’s two-fold – one is to help the veterinary school and the other is to honor patients and friends,” Perkins said.