Dr. Mike Dunn, left, with Becky Godchaux and her corgi Nanette. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

The name of Marathon’s 13-time Best Vet is getting a national spotlight, thanks to a full scholarship funded by a longtime client.

Created by Marathon resident Becky Godchaux and named after the locally-beloved head honcho at Keys Animal Hospital, the Mike Dunn, DVM Veterinary Student Scholarship will award two veterinary medicine students pursuing companion animal practice with up to $35,000 per year for four years of veterinary school – a whopping $280,000 total commitment. 

“I started thinking about what’s most important to me, and both of my dogs are very important,” she said. “Mike has been my veterinarian for many, many years, and I just admire him.”

Early conversations with Dunn, in which the vet described the impact of his own scholarship to Cornell University, soon developed into further leads through Godchaux’s neighbor. A retired veterinarian himself, Don Wilson pointed her in the direction of the VIN Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “cultivating a healthy veterinary community by providing veterinary colleagues support at the defining moments of their career.”

“This is under (the foundation’s) umbrella,” Godchaux said. “I had a veterinary scholarship in mind, I just had no idea how I was going to do it. They have been unbelievable in giving me the background to be able to do something like this.” She said she arrived at the total dollar amount in consultation with VIN by averaging the cost of schools across the country.

“I believe in scholarships for people who are going to contribute to their community, whoever they may be,” she added. “I think especially since COVID, the veterinary world is a profession that’s in crisis.”

Godchaux said she and her evaluation committee from the VIN Foundation received 180 applicants for the scholarship’s inaugural year, with each applicant’s personal statement and resume set for reading and scoring by two separate teams within the committee. Finalists will participate in a video interview and must show proof of acceptance in a qualifying school for fall 2024.

“Especially since this is the first year, we want to make sure we get it right,” she said. “If it all goes well, it definitely will continue.”

“I am still in shock with Becky’s level of generosity,” said Dunn. “It is so nice to know that we, as veterinarians, make such an impact on people’s lives.”

Godchaux’s final words of praise for Dunn to the Weekly echoed those of hundreds of his clients past and present, along with nearly 200 reactions and comments on the hospital’s Facebook post sharing the news.

“Mike’s compassion and his ability to communicate, it’s just admirable what he does,” Godchaux said. “That’s without much thought that I’m saying this. There’s so much more to be said.”

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.