Alumni News | Giving Stories

Dunphys’ Estate Gift: ‘Giving for the Future’

Dr. Clyde and Mrs. Catherine Dunphy]

Animals cannot tell their doctors where it hurts or whether they’re taking their medicines. That makes effective communication between animal owners and veterinarians so crucial.

Recognizing the importance of effective communication skills, Dr. Clyde Dunphy and his wife, Catherine, recently decided to name the Communication Center within the college’s Clinical Skills Learning Center through an estate gift. They also give to two veterinary student scholarships.

‘I Got So Much from the University’

“The main reason I give back to my alma mater is that I got so much from the University of Illinois,” explained Dr. Dunphy, who earned his DVM degree at Illinois in 1974. “I get a little emotional about this. It seems that all that I have, all I’ve achieved, and most of the connections I’ve made are because of becoming a vet. I probably get back way more than I give to the college.”

A practicing veterinarian for nearly 40 years, Dr. Dunphy started giving back to the University and his profession before he even graduated.

“I’m the kind of person who gets involved,” he said.

He served a term as president of his class and of the Illinois chapter of the Student American Veterinary Association during veterinary school. Later he served as president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA). He’s a mentor in the ISVMA’s Power of 10, a leadership program to foster personal and professional growth for new veterinarians.

He and Catherine also have been active in organizations related to breeding and showing Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands. Dr. Dunphy served as president of the Newfoundland Club of America (NCA) for four years. He also helped found the NCA Charitable Trust, which supports research, scholarship, education, and rescue efforts for the breed. This year, the Trust celebrated its 25th anniversary.

“If I saw a need, I just did it,” he said.

‘You, Too, Should Be Involved’

Dr. Dunphy credits Dr. Erwin Small, a College of Veterinary Medicine alumnus and faculty member who devoted more than 50 years to serving the college and the veterinary profession, for inspiring him to become so involved.

“Dr. Small took a personal interest in every veterinarian who graduated from Illinois,” Dr. Dunphy said. “He was involved and believed you, too, should be involved in organizations that supported the college and organized veterinary medicine.”

Fall Conference 2021
At the Veterinary Medicine Alumni Association reception in October 2021, Catherine and Clyde Dunphy (at right) visited with Ginger Passalacqua, Dr. Anne Barger, and Dr. Julia Whittington. Dr. Dunphy stays involved at the college by attending the annual Fall Conference for Veterinarians.

Taking this inspiration to heart in several ways, Dr. Dunphy continues to maintain connections to the college. Throughout his years in practice, he stayed in touch with his former professors, calling on them when he needed their expertise. For the past 15 years, he has given a guest lecture in a weeklong course for graduating seniors. He talks about the business management side of operating a veterinary practice and the value of communicating well with clients.

“I love talking with students and plan to continue lecturing in this course as long as my content remains relevant,” he said.

Although retired from practice, Dr. Dunphy maintains his veterinary license and serves on the legislative committee for the ISVMA. He continues to do some pro bono consulting and mentoring for veterinarians looking to buy or start a practice, especially regarding management issues.

‘I Realized How Important It Is … to Give’

In 2013, Dr. Dunphy served on the search committee that hired Dean Peter Constable, an experience that further cemented Dr. Dunphy’s desire to support the college.

“It gave me a lot more insight into how the college works and what it takes to be a top-notch vet college,” he said. “I realized how important it is for individuals to give their support at any level they can.”

Dr. Clyde and Mrs. Catherine Dunphy pose outside the Communication Center they have named.
Dr. Clyde and Mrs. Catherine Dunphy pose outside the Communication Center they have named.

Dr. and Mrs. Dunphy have long contributed to two veterinary student scholarships at the college, one established through the Class of 1974 and another through the Small Animal Executive Veterinary Program, a program Dr. Dunphy completed in 2000.

When choosing the focus of their estate gift, Dr. Dunphy said, “My wife and I really wanted to donate back to the college to benefit all the students,” in addition to continuing their support for scholarships that benefit one student at a time.

His professional interest in client communications guided their decision.

Early in his career, Dr. Dunphy gained valuable experience in effective communication when a friend encouraged him to join the local Toastmasters club. “I didn’t even know what that was,” Dr. Dunphy said. “Why would I join?”

But he did join and learned about speaking to an audience, thinking before speaking, becoming a leader, and what it takes to truly communicate. “It helped get me to where I’m at today,” he said.

‘If You Can’t Communicate … with a Client, You Can’t Help Them’

“I think there are two reasons my wife and I have invested in the Clinical Skills Learning Center,” Dr. Dunphy said. “First, there are a lot of students today who don’t get the opportunity to go out into the field and learn some basic skills.”

On a recent tour of the college, he and Catherine saw firsthand how students were able to develop their hands-on skills using the center’s models.

“And the Communication Center there also helps develop critical communications skills in students during their first and second years of study” — something that wasn’t available when he was a veterinary student.

“As a student, you have to learn veterinary medicine and all the things that go with diagnosis and treatment, but if you can’t communicate those things with a client, you can’t help them, their pet, or their livestock,” said Dr. Dunphy. “I always get tickled when veterinary students or prospective applicants talk about how they chose veterinary medicine because they ‘really didn’t want to deal with people.’ I always let them know that, as vets, they’re going to need to deal with people, because the animals can’t speak for themselves.”

Dr. Dunphy hopes that by talking publicly about their estate gift, he can help other people understand that they, too, can make a difference in veterinary medicine.

“The support will go on and help vets for not just the short term but for generations,” he said. “That’s how I look at charitable giving. You’re not just helping in the moment. You’re giving for the future.”

—Susan McKenna