Benefactor Stories > Their Fathers’ Foundations

Their Fathers’ Foundations

By Community

Long before they met, Susan and Tom Gus listened — and were shaped — by their fathers’ advice.

For Susan, it was the importance of education. For Tom, it was the value of work. The lessons played key roles for both while their mothers dealt with chronic illnesses.

A Dairy Dream

Susan grew up in rural Wisconsin on a dairy farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse.

Understanding the value of education, Susan’s dad insisted that she go to college to receive the education neither he nor Susan’s mom had.

“Back then there weren’t a lot of options, so he asked, ‘Do you want to be a nurse, a secretary or a teacher?’” she says. After one year of classes in high school to prepare for a nursing career, Susan determined nursing wasn’t for her.

Susan’s family moved to Arizona in hopes that a drier climate would help alleviate her mom’s arthritis symptoms. While there, she discovered a love of working with children, enrolled in college and became an elementary school teacher. “We were poor growing up, but I had everything I needed,” Susan says. “In fact, I didn’t know until I applied for college that we were in the poverty level.”

A Simple Life

Tom was raised on a farm about 25 miles east of Los Angeles.

“It was a little unique to have this type of land so close to Los Angeles. We had horses, goats, chickens, and ducks and stuff,” Tom says. “But I considered myself a big-city boy.”

Raised primarily by his father due to his mother’s multiple sclerosis, Tom relished his bond with his father.

Rising in Arizona

To meet the increasing demand to treat patients with serious and complex health conditions in the growing Southwest, Mayo Clinic is embarking on a capital expansion that will nearly double the size of its Phoenix campus over the next five years.

The highlights of the expansion include an additional 94 inpatient beds; a new six-story patient tower; a three-floor addition to the existing four-story Mayo Clinic Building; and a new three-story building to house expanded emergency and laboratory departments, as well as two new parking structures. This capital expansion project will bring the Arizona campus forward by investing in people, space and innovation, while setting Mayo Clinic on a trajectory as the premier destination medical center in the Southwest.

Uncle Sam’s Call

Tom always knew he wanted to be a veterinarian. Because of this, he thought time was on his side. After high school he and a friend traveled around the country before starting junior college and eventually university. But Tom also had a birth date that was high in the draft order, and the Army selected it.

“The Army was a life-changing event for me. I spent most of my time in Vietnam,” he says. “Before I was in the service, I was going to school, but I wasn’t really setting any records.

“After being in the service and kind of experiencing life and the rawness of it all, I came out with a new quest and a new sincerity in my efforts to go to school and achieve.”

When Tom returned, he excelled and was accepted into veterinary school, earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He used his GI benefits and his savings from working to graduate nearly debt-free. He moved to Arizona in 1980 for work as a veterinarian, and in 1986, following his dad’s wisdom to take risks, he bought the veterinary practice.

An Arizona Match

Susan and Tom met, married and adopted three children. Now retired, the couple has decided they want to give back to organizations they feel can do the most good.

Honored by Mayo Clinic as Principal Benefactors, the Guses’ belief in Mayo led them to support priorities such as Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and capital expansion.

The Guses point back to their fathers’ guiding voices as lessons they now hand down to their children.

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