John Thomas Vaughan
A Collection of Memories as Shared by Colleagues, Students & Friends
Henry J. Baker, DVM ’60
AUCVM Professor Emeritus & Scott-Ritchey Director Emeritus
Our class applauded in appreciation and respect for this instructor who was our age but now our professional idol.
I met Tom Vaughan in 1959 when I was a junior veterinary student, and he was a newly minted faculty member in large animal surgery and medicine. His signature instruction was to demonstrate “casting” a horse. In that era before tranquilizers, physical restraint was needed to treat unwilling gargantuan patients. The demonstration was a spectacle. The subject was a ton-and-a-half docile mule who was decorated with straps around each ankle, leading to miles of rope and pullies that gave Instructor Vaughan the mechanical advantage needed to bring the mule to his knees. Anyone who has shaken Tom’s hand is painfully aware of his strength, which was especially apparent when the mule responded to his pull on the command rope. The hapless mule reclined in slow-motion, ending with a thunderous thud. The encore was the mule rising to his full height with no apparent injury, apprehension or embarrassment. Our class applauded in appreciation and respect for this instructor who was our age but now our professional idol. That display of physical strength and prowess disguised the greater intellectual, leadership and personal gifts that lay beneath Tom Vaughan’s scrub shirt.
Our next meeting was a decade later when Tom was dean of the faculty, and I co-founded the department of comparative medicine at the University of Alabama Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. The college needed help teaching an introductory course in the new veterinary specialty of laboratory animal medicine and Tom asked me to fill this role. My co-founder and mentor Russell Lindsey and I alternated three days a week driving the round trip from Birmingham to Tuskegee then Auburn to teach this course to students at both schools, pro bono publico. That fateful event renewed my lasting friendship with Tom.
In 1989, when the college searched for the third director of the Scott-Ritchey Research Center, my friend and colleague Nancy Cox encouraged me to apply. Tom offered the position to me with his usually strongly persuasive charm. That started the happiest and most productive period of my professional life, for which Tom earns my eternal gratitude. Our final work together was Tom agreeing to write the Forward to my memoir, “Our Animals, a Veterinarian’s Life of Discovery,” which is written in vintage Tom Vaughan style and my prize possession.
I suspect that many of Tom’s acquaintances can tell similar stories about his influence on their lives and careers, because that was his gift and he used it often and well. In his characteristic humility, Tom signed his erudite columns in the Auburn Veterinarian, “Your Humble and Obedient Servant,” abbreviated “Yr humbl and obdt svt, JTV.” Yes, dear friend, you served us well and we are grateful. We will miss you and always remember your kindness, good humor and warm friendship. God grant you peace and happiness in your next life.
Luis Arguelles, DVM ’93
The world needs more men like him.
Dean Vaughan had a heck of a handshake. I was a male student at AUCVM and Dean Vaughan would often greet male students with a “crushing” handshake. Dean Vaughan had big hands. My freshman year, fall of 1989, I remember it like it was yesterday. After a couple of handshakes that first semester, and being surprised by his vise-like grip, I told myself I’d be ready for the next one. A couple of weeks later the opportunity came. Dean Vaughan came walking down the hallway toward me — I’ll get him this time I told myself, I need to get a grip in deep! As soon as I reach out to shake his hand, Dean Vaughan proceeds to fake the handshake, open his hand and slap me in the chest with all his might! He knocked the breath out of me! Embarrassed, coughing and sputtering I look up at him and he just gives me a wink. Always one step ahead. The world needs more men like him. I loved Dean Vaughan.
Anne England, DVM ’84
Hi, I’m Tom Vaughan and I’ll be your date tonight.
As a senior student at Auburn’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1984, I was chosen to receive the SGA President’s Award for the School of Veterinary Medicine. It was required that I attend a formal banquet to be presented with the award. I was told I would be seated next to Dean Vaughan. It was a cold, blustery night when I arrived in the atrium of the banquet hall. Nervous and freezing cold, I looked down at my cyanotic toes in my dress sandals, peeking out from beneath the hem of my formal gown — a big change from my daily uniform of “greens” as we students called our required daily attire. Suddenly, I heard my name called. I looked up to see Dean Vaughan dressed impeccably in a tuxedo. I was quite intimidated.
I’m sure he sensed my shy trepidation as he humorously and disarmingly said, “ Hi, I’m Tom Vaughan and I’ll be your date tonight.” We both laughed. It was a memorable and enjoyable event and I’m sure he expanded my vocabulary twofold that evening.
Richard Curtis Bird
Professor, Department of Pathobiology
He was delightful and a major reason I have stayed at Auburn.
Dean Tom Vaughan was the dean of the college when I was hired in 1985 and I am now the longest serving member of the college faculty. Tom was not on the search committee but was intimately involved in the development of the position, pushing hard for a focus on molecular cloning and biology, which, at the time, was the hottest new biological technology and I was trained well in this discipline.
Despite my distant home in Canada and very different training from the majority of college faculty, he made me feel right at home. We lived on the same street and often passed on our way to work — he in his small pickup truck and me on my bicycle. He was always warm and thoughtful and most welcoming to me and my young family. He also relished a strong, firm handshake and I have big hands, although, not as big as Tom’s! He and I always enjoyed a firm greeting! He was delightful and a major reason I have stayed at Auburn.
My most treasured memory of a discussion with Tom Vaughan occurred in another former college dean’s home — that of Tim Boosinger — on the occasion of our annual fall welcome of the new college faculty. Things had become quite mellow, and he and I were out on the deck discussing our childhoods in the very different places we grew up — me in suburban Toronto and he in Tuskegee, Alabama. We got on to discussing those very famous pioneering scholars who contributed so much to the founding of Tuskegee Institute.
At that point Tom surprised me beyond belief by describing his almost daily interactions on his front porch as a young boy, sitting there while waiting to walk to grade school. Most mornings he would be sitting there and would greet and often chat with an elderly African American gentleman walking to work at Tuskegee Institute up the street. This elderly scholar would often stop and chat with young Tom and they became quite well-acquainted. He then told me that this gentleman was the world-renowned agricultural scientist known for his many inventions and new uses of peanuts, Dr. George Washington Carver. I was simply gobsmacked!
I had studied Dr. Carver’s work and history as a famous 19th-century scientist as a young student in Canada, where he is revered as a science pioneer in the application of basic scientific disciplines to more applied pursuits. To have known someone who knew this renowned person so well simply amazed me. It was like entering a time warp right there on Dr. Boosinger’s back deck. It was a unique experience I have treasured and remembered well to this day.
Chris Duke, DVM ’83
I wasn’t anticipating this kind of clarity!
I recall a moment while on radiology rotation. Dean Vaughan was in “coverall” mode, needing to see a horse case to satisfy HIS clinical cravings. He had taken some hoof x-rays out in the large animal treatment area and brought the cassettes in to be developed. The radiology department had installed a new automatic processor (remember those?). Excitedly, the radiology tech took the cassettes into the dark room and sent them through. Dr. Vaughan patiently waited for that first film to come through. When it did, it was a total overexposure white-out with no clinical image of anything. Dean Vaughan held it up to the fluorescent light, and then put it on the viewing board. Then he enthusiastically told the radiology personnel, “I wasn’t anticipating this kind of clarity!”
James Gates, DVM ’70
AUCVM Large Animal Graduate Assistant, ’69-’71
He referred to me as “Cousin Jimmy”— I treasure that relationship.
Dr. Vaughan came into my life in winter quarter 1969 when I became a graduate student in large animal working directly under Dr. John K. Winkler and becoming acquainted with Drs. Walker, Hudson, Wiggins, Gibbons and Kjar. It was a great opportunity to take a surgery course under Dr. Vaughan during my master’s studies.
Referencing now Dr. Vaughan’s article, “Where Angels Fear to Tread” from Auburn Veterinarian, Winter 2022. Go to Page 39, left column, last two paragraphs. The Mr. Samuel Vaughan spoken of there was my great, great-grandfather. It was my great, great-grandmother Lucy Towns Lockett Vaughan and her daughter, Mollie, who taught Robert Russa Moton to read. Dr. Vaughan and I had communication by mail about this family connection and in his last handwritten letter he referred to me as “Cousin Jimmy” — I treasure that relationship.
Susan Grove, DVM ’89
He had an open mind and vision for the future of veterinary medicine and an Auburn veterinary education.
I have very fond memories of Dean Vaughan. He allowed me to pursue my interest in exotic medicine by approving an externship for me in the spring of 1989 at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.
In 1989, our externship in the spring of our last year was required to be in either a large or a small animal clinic. A zoo externship was not previously approved. Dean Vaughan understood my dreams and career goals and realized I could not pursue a career in zoo medicine without this experience.
This experience was crucial in my decision not to pursue this field. As I had a great experience and I learned a lot, I felt it did not offer me the relationship with the animals and clients that I treasure in small animal medicine. I did eventually move to San Diego after practicing in New York City for 11 years. Dean Vaughan was a crucial mentor in my Auburn education. He had an open mind and vision for the future of veterinary medicine and an Auburn veterinary education.
Mickey Golden, DVM ’83
Thank you, Dean Vaughan.
I was a member of the Auburn Veterinary School Class of 1983. Our class was finishing our last quarter at Auburn, just prior to our heading out to our spring preceptorships. Though time was winding down at the end of the winter quarter, it still had not been decided as to where we would hold our graduation ceremony. The previous year’s class had their graduation, which I had attended, in the Foy Union building. It was super crowded and had overflowed into the surrounding halls and the adjacent rooms. The Foy Union had a limited holding capacity of 425. Our class size was 115 students along with faculty and administration. A sizable number of the allowable 425 was already taken without even the invited guests.
The Foy Union building venue would necessitate graduates limit invitations to four attendees each, which, even with that number, would have exceeded the fire marshal capacity. Our class president, Steve Wills (thank you, Steve), was pushing for us to be able to have graduation in the Coliseum, and though the university had approved our using the Coliseum, the veterinary school had not yet agreed to allowing our class to hold it there. Privately, Steve shared with me that his concern was that the graduation venue decision would most likely be announced after our class left for our preceptorships. At that point, we would all be dispersed, and it would be too late to object to the decision.
Steve’s prediction proved correct.
My rotation group was still on campus for an additional two days beyond the last day of class to give our senior seminar presentations. After the last of our seminars, several of us met for lunch. Lila Carpenter Windus (thank you, Lila) had just stopped by the veterinary school on the way to lunch and found out that the decision had been made and that our graduation would be held at Foy Union. I was disappointed.
After learning of the decision, I composed a letter to Dean Vaughan. I expressed my disappointment in the veterinary school’s decision as to the graduation venue. On my way out of Auburn to my preceptorship, I stopped by the veterinary school. After confirming with the dean’s secretary, Mrs. Kline, Foy Union would be the graduation venue, I asked if she might give Dean Vaughan my letter. I was at my preceptorship in Atlanta when I received and opened my box of graduation invitations. You maybe could imagine my surprise and happiness as I read an invitation and it stated that graduation would be held at the Coliseum.
Dean Vaughan interceded and had the graduation changed to the Coliseum. Graduation was a special time for all of us and it was made even more special in being able to share it with classmates and their families in a less stressful and uncrowded venue.
Thank you, Dean Vaughan.
Lynn Hagood, DVM ’88
I loved listening to Mrs. Ethel talk about him…
When I think of Dr. Vaughan, three things come to mind. First, I can’t even think of Dr. Vaughan without thinking of Ethel. With all the accolades, recognition and service to his profession, college and career, it was obvious to me that their relationship was a treasure and took precedence in his life. Over the years, I loved listening to Mrs. Ethel talk about him and the loving way she said his name, “Tom.”
Another memory that forever remains is the “larger than life” renown of Dr. Vaughan. While on a camping trip in the North Carolina mountains, Hallie and I were talking to a couple we had met. When they learned I was a veterinarian from Auburn, they asked did I know Dr. Tom Vaughan. The man proceeded to tell a story about a canoe trip into the wilderness of upstate New York he had taken with friends some years previous. On this trip, a member of their party had suffered a severe medical emergency in the middle of the night when they were miles from nowhere. Well, who other than a man named Dr. John Thomas Vaughan was there to place the individual in his canoe, paddle alone in the middle of the night and deliver the man to rescue and safety, saving the man’s life. What a hero!
Finally is Dr. Vaughan’s simple analysis of the world expressed in this statement: “I don’t understand why someone would pay for a gym membership, than pay someone to do their yardwork when they could get a workout doing their yard and save money on both ends.”
Karl N. Kapoor, DVM ’84
Well done, good and faithful servant.
I was sad to hear of the passing of J. T. Vaughan. I extend my condolences to his wife, Ethel, his daughter, Faythe, one of my classmates, his other children and grandchildren, as well as to the larger Auburn family who together mourn this loss.
I hesitated to write. Nothing I could pen would be adequate. I know the personal loss will be grievous to his family, friends and the Auburn community. The professional teacher, administrator and dean emeritus. He provided collective support for students and faculty. I am sure you will read or hear in the coming months how he supported students or colleagues individually, with a quiet pride of successful mentorship. These stories will be cherished. I look forward to learning more.
I remember the importance of professional image to Dr. Vaughan. This, in time, would become a small thorn in the side for some in our class when it revolved around dress code. Dr. Vaughan found value and pride in the skill and dedication required to become a veterinarian. For him, the intensive learning and hard work required to prepare an individual to become a doctor of veterinary medicine brought a privilege and responsibility to be a professional. Professional appearance was just one facet — an outward and visible testament to the achievement. I suspect some of his stance on this was a generational aspect of professionalism. But his concern bore witness to something more important than clothes. Of paramount essence was the way we would practice for those we serve, man and beast, keeping honor, integrity and good character as hallmark traits.
Oh, sometimes he could be unnerving. I was sitting across from that large, heavy wooden desk in his office. It seemed very large at the time. In suit, dress shirt and tie, leaning back in his chair, he would hold one arm of his eyeglasses in his hand while tapping the other arm of the eyeglass frame against the side of his head, deep in thought. It was disarmingly quiet. Was he waiting for a response or just letting me think? I think he had asked a question. But was it really a question? Sometimes it was difficult to tell. I was thinking about my response, but I was also thinking about when I was to respond. I had the opportunity to have these visits with him on several occasions. Sometimes it was related to my class, the AUCVM Class of 1984. Many were because of our school’s honor board on which I served.
I remember Dr. Vaughan was also my Sunday school class teacher for a time at Auburn United Methodist Church. Class discussion here typically steered clear of veterinary school matters. He was not my first mentor, nor my last, in terms of understanding that a chosen profession did not limit our purpose in life to only one thing. Instead, he encouraged and approved of actions that allowed for varied and diverse service to community.
I remember the firm handshake. Who doesn’t? When I was interviewing for my preceptorship before graduation, the first question the owner of the clinic asked me concerned Dr. Vaughan’s handshake technique. I was fortunate to have had the pleasure of that handshake several times: at our meetings, at graduation and after going back to Auburn following the first couple of weeks of the preceptorship. Dr. Vaughan phoned the practice one day and shared some information with my preceptor. I was told I needed to go back to Auburn. My first thoughts ran wild: maybe I missed an entire large animal rotation, maybe I cannot graduate and similar panic reactions. It was like getting called to the principal’s office except worse. The memory of that large office, the big desk and the awkward silence returned. But I went.
I was surprised to find out Dr. Vaughan had most graciously nominated me for an award at the main university campus. He was proud of his school and the mark the veterinary college made as part of Auburn University. Over the years many veterinary students overseen by him in some capacity had been active members of the Auburn community. Later, these graduates became an integral part of the communities where they lived, not only to serve as veterinarians, but also as community leaders. I was humbled he would consider me. But it wasn’t just for me. This act was another way he looked for, acknowledged and encouraged the noble honor of giving back. The nomination won. The credit should go to his skillful writing of the nomination. Once again, his actions reflected the importance of hard work, professional ethics and community service that he expected of himself.
Thank you for letting me share a few thoughts. As a student and then a colleague, I have great admiration for a legend in our profession who uniquely made an impact on so many. In closing, one of the Sunday school lessons he led revolved around what a person might want to hear concerning their life. A phrase from Matthew 25:23 comes to mind. I can hear very clearly what I’m sure has now been accurately told to Dr. Vaughan: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Richard Hopper, DVM ’78
We all have personal memories, mental glimpses of a great man and good person.
In late spring of 1977, I began my six-week equine rotation. The timing became more significant to me over time as this was the last rotation that Dr. Vaughan participated in before assuming the role of dean. A lot of memories shared by others might include the handshake or the manner in which one of his columns in the Quarterly spoke to or impacted the reader. Yes, I experienced the handshake and, yes, I read and reread many of his columns, but this will be about a day in April, 45 years ago.
“Richard!” Yes, on the second day of the block he knew my name, as well as the other 13 students. I turned and ran over. “You’re taking care of the quarter horse stallion” (statement, not question). “Yes, sir.” “I’m on my way to a meeting, have him in the treatment room stocks at 11:00.” I had him there at 10:55. His meeting ran late. He arrived at about 11:30. He apologized for making me wait. He had me twitch him and, in a minute, I looked back and Dr. Vaughan was under the horse. Squatted down completely under him palpating/comparing both forelimb flexor tendons. Well, this horse was at least 1,200-1,250 pounds and started to stomp and toss his head. “Wiggle the twitch.” I did. I also tried a skin twitch on his neck with my other hand. Nothing worked. Dr. Vaughan came around, had me release the twitch. Standing directly in front of the horse, he grabbed and closed both nostrils. A two to three-minute battle of wills began. The horse tried to escape the grip. Vessels bulged on the face of the wild-eyed stallion and then surrender and calm. Dr. Vaughan took the twitch, placed it back on, bumped the handle with his hand a couple of times and handed it back. He resumed his posture (under the stallion) and finished the exam.
“Richard, we just don’t accept poor behavior, do we?” Still trying to get a handle on what I had witnessed, I simply responded, “No, sir, we don’t.” I thought for a moment that it might apply to me as well as unruly horses and I think my voice probably cracked.
We all have personal memories, mental glimpses of a great man and good person. I remember a man that never walked by a piece of trash, who apologized to a student for making them wait on him, who asked Gail Anderson how to spell “vittles” (it’s Latin and spelled “victuals”) and who didn’t accept “poor behavior.”
Reid Hanson, DVM
AUCVM Professor of Equine Surgery
His name is etched into your heart and mine, and the stories we will share about him will ensure his legacy will live on.
My name is Reid Hanson. I am a professor of equine surgery at Auburn, but more importantly, I am someone whose life’s work was shaped by a man grounded in purpose and integrity.
It was an average ordinary day in August 1991 that set me upon a path that has both defined my career and inspired me to be my best self. Dean Vaughan hired me on the firm handshake he was known for — when handshakes meant something. I was in his office with Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. H.C. Morgan and Associate Dean for Research Dr. Sidney Beckett, fully intending not to accept a position at Auburn if I was offered one. Well, in less than 15 minutes, with my eyes opened a little wider and my mouth slightly agape, I heard myself say, “Yessir.” My plan just went out the window. Dr. Vaughan’s emphatic statement that he expected me to report to the faculty in 60 days and start putting the equine surgery program on a national level was ringing in my ears. There was no talk of the salary. And I didn’t think to ask. Nothing was mentioned about accommodations. I was just hoping for a horse to heal — and an uncomplicated case at that! For the following 32 years, I took up the mantle for a man who was a father figure, a mentor and a friend.
Now, when I say mentor, I’m not speaking of a synthetic, disingenuous concept, the watered-down idea of some wizened old man meeting the young aspiring doctor weekly for coffee — the kind who shares life lessons from a distance. I’m talking about the iron sharpening iron type of mentoring, which is up close and personal. It’s brutal, messy, hard, but honest work. And Dr. Vaughan was painfully honest with me. It was uncommon at this stage of my career, 10 years post-graduation, to have a professor care enough to shape my intellect, interest and life in general. But Dr. Vaughan did.
We were in the same industry, both academic equine surgeons, but that doesn’t always mean people click and can relate. But Dr. Vaughan did. He could relate to my insecurities and my ambitions. He had been there before me. He took the time to be a sounding board. He took the interest to share his valuable insights, his successes and his failures. I could rely upon him to not just provide feedback, but to provide objective feedback so I could grow in ability and mature as a man and as a surgeon. Through his humanity, he gave me confidence in myself. His combination of wisdom and humility is hard to find.
I gleaned a fundamental understanding of the world from his views and perspectives and from his wealth of knowledge. I’ll cherish the conversations. I’ll cherish the sense of belonging to that community of like-minded people. I’ll cherish that unlikely encounter in 1991 that changed the trajectory of my career and put me on a path of professional success.
My hope for all of us here is that we aren’t running so fast after our own goals and aspirations that we don’t recognize when an upstanding, honorable man like Dr. Vaughan crosses our path. It may be that we need to get off the road we’re traveling and follow after him. I certainly did — and I’m grateful for it.
It has been said that you carve your name on hearts, not tombstones, and the price of that love is grief. And today we grieve, but we also celebrate the life of Dr. J. T. Vaughan. His name is etched into your heart and mine, and the stories we will share about him will ensure his legacy will live on. His was a life well done… I will especially miss him, dearly.
Charles Hendrix, DVM
AUCVM Professor Emeritus
He looked like Papa Smurf but without the beard.
If you are associated with Auburn’s Veterinary College, you inevitably know Dean Emeritus J. Thomas Vaughan. Everybody knows Dr. Vaughan! However, only a select few individuals can remember the exact date and time when they met him, but I can!
On January 16, 1981, I flew from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine to interview for the assistant professor job in the department of pathology and parasitology. Monday, January 17, 1981, was spent meeting with the department head, Dr. Aaron Groth, Jr., and his faculty. Over the noon hour, I delivered a presentation based on the results of my Ph.D. thesis. The next day, I was to meet with the dean, Dr. J. T. Vaughan, at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I arrived at the Dean’s Office but was told by Mrs. Virginia Klein, the dean’s secretary, that Dean Vaughan had been delayed — he was treating a horse in the equine clinic in McAdory Hall. Dr. Vaughan was late for our meeting, very unusual! He had been injecting a horse’s joint, but the connection between the syringe and the needle was not complete and the dye squirted out all over Dr. Vaughan. Dr. Vaughan eventually made the appointment, but his face and hands were completely covered with blue dye. He looked like Papa Smurf but without the beard. I have never been so impressed. I had never seen a “soiled” dean who worked in the clinic. Later that day, I boarded a single propeller airplane, flew to Atlanta and then back to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I got the job. Needless to say, the rest is history!
And now for my eulogy for Dean J. Thomas Vaughan. My mother’s family lived in Greenville, South Carolina, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. My grandfather was an undertaker and that was a good thing. People continued to die. My mother’s home life was not harsh, it was comfortable. My grandparents hired someone to cook, do light housework and take care of my mother and my sister Eleanor. The lady they hired was Josie Shumate Daniels and my mother thought that Josie literally “hung the moon.” They became fast friends like carrots and peas. My mother and my aunt “El” loved Josie. My mother and my aunt eventually grew up like we all will do, and Josie died. My mother was very grief-stricken and never forgot Josie.
Josie had a great effect on my mother’s life. My mother would say, “When I die and go to heaven, I am going to look up Josie — FIRST, ahead of my parents. Just before my mother’s death, I took care of my mother by myself from December 10, 2007, through December 31, 2007. Six lady caregivers eventually finally gave me some “relief.” I took Josie’s framed photograph and had it by her bedside as she died. Mother got to be with Josie again.
I loved Dean Vaughan like a son loves his own father. When I die, I will not need a photograph of Dean Vaughan to recognize him because I will be looking for his great big old hands… to pull me to the other side.
Rest in peace Dean Vaughan, I hope that heaven has plenty of horses!
Bryan Waldridge, DVM ’91
How an Auburn veterinarian should be and treat others.
I invited Drs. Vaughan and Johnson and their wives to Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm where I work as a farm veterinarian. We all enjoyed a day riding on a golf cart through paddocks and visiting with both the champions and unknown horses that live there. Dr. Vaughan told me how he would wear his hat with Silver Charm’s name and racing silks around Auburn and people would ask who Silver Charm was. He was happy to tell them that he was a horse that won the Kentucky Derby and was in the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to have gotten to know Dr. Vaughan in my career as a teacher and friend. He will always remain for me as the example of how an Auburn veterinarian should be and treat others.
Horace Walcott, DVM
My interactions with Dr. Vaughan were indirect yet positively long-lasting. He attended the one-day seminar at the Tuskegee Chapel facilitated by a rising star of comparative neurology who would play a signal role in making the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine a top-notch veterinary school. Tuskegee University, Auburn University, the University of Florida and the biomedical campus of Texas A&M were the regional tertiary institutions supporting my quest to become a zoo veterinarian at a time when it was highly competitive to be awarded internships in zoological medicine at only two zoos in the United States — the San Diego Zoo and the Washington Zoo. Following my externship at the Broadway Animal Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, and the San Antonio Zoo, Tuskegee and Auburn provided me with training in exotic animal medicine in preparation for my career journey of thousands of miles in zoo medicine.
In my final semester at Tuskegee, I did the mini course in caged bird medicine at Auburn. During my internship in Atlanta, which included training in zoo animal medicine and companion animal medicine in 1984, it was Auburn University under Dr. Vaughan’s leadership that had the fortitude to take on two cases of large felines from the Atlanta Zoo, which were submerged in political and social controversy. Two Auburn graduates greatly influenced my veterinary training at Tuskegee — Dr. Howard King in zoo medicine and Dr. Mobini in large animal medicine. I still remember the lectures by Dr. Milton and Dr. Zenoble. The academic leadership in veterinary medicine at Auburn, Tuskegee and Florida supported the need to train veterinarians in zoo medicine in the 1980s before zoological medicine was granted diplomate specialty status in 1984 by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Marvin B. McCann, DVM ’77
He always seemed to have a destination with a direct path forward.
Dr. Vaughan had returned to Auburn from his time at Cornell approximately one year before my class entered our clinical rotations. During that year, I had seen him with his long strides, rapidly walking through the large animal clinic. He always seemed to have a destination with a direct path forward. I learned through the rumor mill that his esteemed reputation was rightly deserved.
I later listened to him throughout the quarter when he lectured to us on equine medicine and surgery. I had learned before veterinary college how to saddle, bridle and even ride a horse. But until this course, I never realized how much I still had to learn about the majestic beast. His lectures were sprinkled with anecdotes and references to such oddities as Russian operas, playwrights and the invention of the telephone. I passed the course, but still realized how little I knew about the equine species.
I next encountered Dr. Vaughan in the large animal clinics on my equine clinical rotation. I had, what I thought then, the unlucky draw of being assigned to his first surgery within our group. I set up the surgery area, pre-medicated and surgically prepped a mare for him to repair a rectovaginal fistula. He hurriedly arrived 30 minutes late from a prior case, apologized and promptly began surgery. I was more nervous than the horse because I hoped I had done everything in proper order for him.
The surgery was quite long and Dr. Vaughan eventually struck up a conversation with me. He asked my name, where I was from and how things were working out for me as an out-of-state student. I told him I was from North Carolina, and he immediately said he could sense that. He said, “I have closely noted how you both handle and move about this horse. I can tell you have a rare fortune in some knowledge about mules. One who knows the nature of a mule will exhibit a greater deal of caution and respect while working on any animal with four hooves.”
The conversation continued to flow when I told him I grew up on a North Carolina tobacco farm and we occasionally used our aged mules during the harvest. Dr. Vaughan said, after veterinary school, he went to Smithfield, North Carolina, for one of his first jobs. He went there because so much tobacco was grown in the region, every farmer had to have a barn full of mules to work in the fields. He learned in North Carolina how dealing with an ornery, over-worked mule in the middle of July, was not something veterinary school had prepared him for.
I would have never dreamed that my first conversation with this renowned veterinarian would be over a mule. The mere fact he made polite conversation during a complicated surgery on a valuable broodmare — even if it was about mules — meant more to me than anything else he could have taught me that day. To everyone’s surprise at the graduation ceremony for my class in 1977, Dr. Vaughan was announced as the next dean of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Thank you, Dr. Vaughan, for all the little things you said and did to help so many of us gain confidence and move forward in our life journey as Auburn veterinarians!
Jane Mount, PhD
Retired Professor, AUCVM Department of Pathobiology
Humorous and Enlightening
Tom was one of the warmest, most charismatic people I have ever known. A casual conversation with him was both humorous and enlightening, and his ability to turn a phrase was an absolute delight.
The last time I saw Tom he had come to visit with my husband, Bob, at Bethany House. Bob was past being able to communicate at that point, but the smile on his face indicated that he was enjoying our conversation immensely. If there was ever a life well lived, Tom was a trophy winner.
My condolences to Ethel, Mike and the rest of the family. I know your loss is great but I hope the memories from a life lived with such a gentle, caring and beloved man will always warm your heart.
Eric Searcy, DVM ’77
Dean Vaughan’s handshake is the stuff of legend.
Dean Vaughan’s handshake is the stuff of legend. The first time, he caught me off guard, rolled the metacarpophalangeal joints in my right hand pretty well and strained my wrist. Somehow, every subsequent handshake also caught me off guard. I think it was the way he cocked his wrist.
Despite that, he was my favorite professor, never boring. He reminded me a lot of my father who was also a great extemporaneous speaker and continually worked to develop his intellect, and who had the respect of all his peers. I particularly admired his intellectual pursuits outside the realm of veterinary medicine, which he used to spice up his lectures and give his students a lot to talk about after class.
What an inspiration and role model for all of us.
Johnny Mac Smith, DVM ’76
It was such a privilege to have Dr. Vaughan as a mentor…
As a student, it was such a privilege to have Dr. Vaughan as a mentor and, for years thereafter, for his level-headed down-home humor and wisdom. As a junior student, I subbed as resident farrier, and he gave me a corrective shoe to make for a case which had to be anesthetized to apply. When I arrived from the shop and presented my work of art, I could tell from his expression that I was going to have to do it again. What I didn’t realize was he wanted it right then! So, while an IV drip continued and more was ordered from the pharmacy, I burned up the forge getting the proper fit. It all worked out and I had more than a few people mad at me, but all was forgiven.
The other time I crossed the line was by hiring one of the first board certified surgeons from Dr. Vaughan’s new staff. It was at AAEP in San Diego and the hire had just gone through. As fate would have it, we met at the elevator door and had quite a few floors to traverse as I was in his grip — I had rained on his parade I was told.
Jim Wenzel, DVM ’82
AUCVM Professor Emeritus
There should be no dismay that Dr. Vaughan gravitated toward an equine bent…
No anthology of remembrances of Dr. Vaughan would be complete without at least one anecdote regarding his (in)famous handshake.
In retrospect, there should be no dismay that Dr. Vaughan gravitated toward an equine bent: a strong hand is a useful asset in the face of an unruly equid. I am satisfied that he was at no disadvantage for want of a twitch… I believe that he could bring the beast to its knees without mechanical subterfuge.
As a theriogenologist usually attending to the bovid ilk of our clients’ menagerie, I developed a passable grip and (usually) could (barely) survive my encounters with the metacarpodigital colossus. So, I encouraged my brother (no milksop, as an Indy Car mechanic with working-man’s hands) when he was about to meet Dr. Vaughan, to manage the greeting with the resolve of mutually assured destruction. However, as chance sometimes has it, he did not obtain the necessary depth of grip. And so, with right-hand digits (and perhaps his career) at risk, he reached Dr. Vaughan’s wrist with his left hand and, disengaging the flexor tendons of the vice-grip with his thumb-tip, grappled a more equitable clasp and survived the gentlemanly encounter.
… and through the years, I have paid some attention to Dr. Vaughan’s scripts and musings and appreciated them.
Rest well, thou hmbl & obdt srvt
Elizabeth “Boo” Woolsey, DVM ’84
He was the soul of the veterinary school.
I first met Dr. Vaughan in 1976 when I relocated from UC Davis to Tuskegee to work as an anesthesia technician. I had just arrived from a cross-country road trip in the summer in a car with no A/C.
My former bosses from UC Davis told me to head to the Auburn vet school ASAP. My dear friend Quincy was with me, and not knowing anything other than what Dr. Meagher suggested (really insisted), I dressed up for an interview. So, I asked Quincy to wear a bra as she was going with me to the veterinary school. She reluctantly complied… we were such young California girls and totally unprepared for the modest Southern ways.
I met this very cordial and formal head of the large animal clinic for a chat and explained that I was going to do anesthesia at Tuskegee in hopes of getting accepted to vet school. It was not a paid appointment, and I would need to obtain work. At that time, there was stiff competition to enter vet school and I had zero chance of getting into vet school at Auburn.
Dr. Vaughan mentioned he was attempting to hire an anesthesia tech and that he would keep me in mind. He already had the “scoop” on me from UCD. He said he would call when he had a position open. The call came and, as much fun as I was having serving Big Boy hamburgers at Shoney’s, I reluctantly took the vet school job. (Thank the Lord and pass the ketchup — no more cutting lemons with a dull knife.)
I was given a closet off a lab for my office and from there I began to interact with Dr. Vaughan daily. He was kind, talented, humble and had a wonderful sense of humor.
One of my favorite memories was one day I was recovering a horse from anesthesia and the horse lunged partway out of the recovery room. I was the only person there and Dr. Vaughan walked past, helped me drag the horse back into the recovery room and close the large doors. He mumbled something to the effect, “That’s why we still let men into vet school.”
One day the announcement of Dr. Vaughan’s appointment as dean of the vet school arrived. I was not happy. He was a draw card, and he was wonderful to work with. I loved all the surgeons, but we just had a bond. Not being shy, I pretty much told him I was not happy about him leaving LAC to go over to the dean’s office. Again, I received an amused smile… “But why?” I asked. He said, “You can only diagnose so many navicular horses and then you will seek more and different challenges.” He then said he would still work part-time at the clinic and still do surgeries. He did.
One time he brought a family member to watch him do surgery. I was doing the anesthesia and watching his niece who wanted a job in the medical profession. I noticed she was becoming pale. I actually caught her on the way down to cognitive oblivion. She was so embarrassed, but I assured her that “everyone, including her uncle, had passed out at least once.” He glared at me, knowing that I was helping her to be less embarrassed at his expense. If he ever did pass out, it was never on my watch.
Keep in mind, over the years he didn’t forget these interactions. I don’t think he ever forgot anything — ever. Those stories, including me making my friend put on a bra, surfaced 30 years later when I visited him and got the tour of the new large animal clinic. His response may never go beyond the dinner table. Trust me, I made a few mistakes along the way. He never expressed anger and I think he actually found it amusing. I didn’t. Dr. Vaughan inspired me to do my best by never saying a word. He did that with everyone.
I still had no plans to apply to Auburn. That was a pipedream. But by 1979, I was an Alabama resident and veterinary schools were expanding, and he suggested that I apply. Bingo! The world’s record number of rejections from veterinary schools ended. He told me he could not write a letter in support of his daughter, but he had written an unsolicited letter in support of my application.
There is so much more, but this is emblematic of the way I — and I think most — students were treated at Auburn. We are family.
He was the soul of the veterinary school. He guided a mighty force and, along the way, taught many of us how to act and be the best at whatever we did. Oh, and I finally did tire of diagnosing navicular horses, but it took me many years.
So, to Faythe, Mrs. Vaughan and their family and our Auburn family, I extend my sincere condolences.