Tom Munschauer grew up with an interest in animals, but it wasn't until his 8th grade science class at Park School that his enthusiasm started to pave his career path.
Each student in the class was to design an independent study project and Munschaeur “wanted to dissect something," he recalls. "My father was a physician and he got me a rabbit to dissect, so that was my class project. I still have the poster from the project; it hangs in my office.”
He says the lure of science, the fact he was able to choose his own project, and his growing interest in the animal world made him think about pursuing veterinary medicine. “I was a little career-driven then,” he says. “I thought veterinary medicine sounded like what I should do, and I sort of never changed my mind after that.”
After graduating from Park in 1971, Munschauer moved on to the University of Vermont, where he majored in pre-veterinary science and graduated in 1975. He also attended the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, earning his degree in 1979. After veterinary jobs in the Town of Tonawanda and New York City, Munschauer returned to Vermont in 1986, settling in Middlebury where he purchased a veterinary practice, Middlebury Animal Hospital, and grew it from a single-doctor practice to one with four veterinarians and a total staff of 14.
Munschauer said one of the benefits of being a veterinarian is that his job is unpredictable each day. “I like that about it. I also like the fact that I don’t just work with animals, but with people. The relationships I develop with my clients are important.”
Munschauer came to Park in 8th grade. He says the experience had a profound effect on his life. “I came to Park School from a parochial school,” where things were “very regimented,” he says. “Park was sort of the antithesis of that. I think one of the first things I learned at Park was if you are going to do something, there’s a certain amount of you that’s responsible for that.
“In other school settings everything is laid out for you; at Park School, everything wasn't as clearly defined. With a little trial and error, you learned to find your own way, which is an incredible skill to have. When I went to college I didn't have the same type of trouble with time management and studying as some of my classmates.”
Munschauer says his Park education also broadened his knowledge of the world. “I went to Park from the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s. It was a turbulent time in the world and in the country. The issues of the day were discussed and we were exposed to many points of view that were new to me. My politics and philosophy, in general, have been shaped by Park School.”
He gives particular credit to a teacher named Miriam Goldeen, who taught history and Latin. “She taught us things about the classics, about Greek tragedies such as Medea and the Oresteia. She was also very opinionated in her politics,” he says.
“She lived near me on West Ferry Street and sometimes would give me a ride home. I feel like she made me realize that being curious and smart, and maybe even intellectual, was good. I’ve never forgotten her.”
Munschauer is active in the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, which cited him with the David Walker Award in 2002 as the state’s veterinarian of the year. He was also the association’s president in 1996 and ’97.
He was formerly a long-distance runner and has completed the New York City Marathon and Western New York’s Skylon Marathon. He is an avid skier and swimmer. He also serves on Park’s Board of Visitors. When he has some down time, Munschauer says he prefers to spend it outdoors. “A day outside, when the sun is shining, is my idea of a perfect day,” he says. “I like to be by the water in summer or on snow in winter. I still downhill ski, which is one of the reasons I ended up at the University of Vermont. Now I live in ski country, which is where I want to be.”