CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Foundation has received a $638,808 gift from the estate of Anna Conley to benefit the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

The gift will be used by the college to fund scholarships for students who demonstrate both financial need and academic merit. The first scholarship is expected to be awarded in 1997.

"This is a wonderful gift for our students and will help ease the burden of rising tuition costs," said Robert C. Wilson, dean of OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Scholarships are so important for attracting and retaining high caliber students. It is not uncommon for a veterinary medicine student to graduate with $45,000 in loans."

Conley, of Otis (Roads End), was born and raised in Salem. After graduating from Sacred Heart Academy, she attended OSU for the 1943-44 academic year. She had a successful and varied career which saw her become a buyer for a major department store in Oregon, introduce soft ice cream to the northeastern part of Brazil, and operate a gift shop in Tiburon, Calif.

Conley made the donation to the joint Oregon State University-Washington State University veterinary program, officials say, because of her love of animals and her admiration for the quality of veterinarians the program produces.

This feeling was enhanced by the educational experience of Melissa Smith, a 1992 graduate of the OSU School of Veterinary Medicine and the daughter of Conley's close friends and neighbors. Smith is now a practicing veterinarian in Sequim, Wash. Conley died in October of 1994.