Celebrating Black Historical past Month – the Story of Purdue Veterinary Medication’s First Black Graduate, Dr. William Dunn

Friday 19th February 2021

In celebration of Black History Month, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is introducing one of its own historians – Dr. William Dunn. When he graduated from DVM in 1971, Dr. Dunn the college’s first black male graduate.

Dr. Dunn said his interest in veterinary medicine started at the age of 8 when his family took their dog to the local vet, and he was amazed at the fantastic job the vet had done to make their furry friend feel better. He knew from that moment that he wanted to be a vet and never changed his mind during his entire childhood and education.

Dr. Dunn grew up in Indianapolis and attended Shortridge High School, where he said he was blessed with the ability to receive two years of biology from a PhD teacher in the field. This experience not only increased his interest in veterinary medicine, but also prepared him for the rigorous training at Purdue University.

At the time, there were only about 19 veterinary programs in the country, and Dr. Dunn said he was lucky enough to live in a state that had one. Purdue offered the only DVM program available in Indiana. During his time at Purdue, Dr. Dunn was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Brotherhood and also served as an advisor at McCutcheon Hall, a position that covered his tuition fees. Dr. Dunn encourages every major college student to take on an assistantship, job, or other work opportunity so they can graduate with less debt.

When asked for advice to college students studying veterinary medicine, Dr. Dunn, that students who see an open door shouldn’t be afraid to walk through it and that sometimes you never know how your education can help you. He recalls that during his veterinary school, students had to examine all animal species regardless of their own interests. For example, even students who wanted to become small animal veterinarians had to take courses on treating livestock, which Dr. Dunn proved useful because of the various areas he later worked in.

After graduation, Dr. Dunn took a position at Merrick Animal Hospital in Brookfield, Illinois, where he worked from June 1971 to October 1972. He then returned to Indianapolis to work for Eli Lilly and Company, where his father had worked. His employment with Eli Lilly enabled him to work in a variety of positions and work with all types of animals, from dogs and cats to pigs and horses. Dr. Dunn said he was well prepared to work with all of these creatures because of the diverse curriculum at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

After 28 years in the workforce, Dr. Dunn retired in January 2000 at the age of 52. When asked for one final piece of advice for prospective College of Veterinary Medicine graduates, Dr. Dunn, that he was in college Diving your career is important, enjoying life is just as important. “I got to where I am by working hard when I had to and playing as hard when I had to,” said Dr. Thin.

Jonathan Martz, PVM Communication Intern | pvmnews@purdue.edu

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