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2022 Convocation Speaker: Arthur J. Antin (MA ’73), Dorothy Height Distinguished Alumni Awardee


New York native Arthur J. Antin (MA ’73) may be best known today for co-founding VCA Animal Hospitals, but like many entrepreneurs, his career path wasn’t exactly a straight line.

In 1969, Antin received his undergraduate degree from City College. He worked in a management training program for Sears Roebuck for several years before realizing that life at a big corporation wasn’t for him.

“I looked around for something to switch into, and education and community health popped into my mind,” says Antin. “I explored lots of local schools, but NYU offered me a graduate assistantship that came with a salary and half of my tuition on top of it, so I quit my job and went to school full-time for two years.”

After graduation, Antin’s first job was teaching GED math at a minimum security prison for two years before transitioning into health education at a public middle school in Yonkers – an audience that Antin says was “much harder” to access than his incarcerated students.

Professional headshot of Arthur J. Antin

Arthur J. Antin (MA '73)

“The prison was an institution where the people in the classroom wanted to be there and wanted help; in a public school, your audience has broader goals,” Antin laughs. “Either way, being a teacher was an amazing 10 years of my life.”

Beyond classroom teaching, Antin wrote grants and created educational programs for low-income kids. This unique program combined education and job training by offering an incentive to students from the general population who weren’t attending school regularly, or at all.

“In this program, I told the kids, ‘If you come and go to school with me in the morning, I will set you up with a job and you can work and get paid in the afternoons,’” says Antin. “They worked in the library, at nonprofit agencies who needed the extra hands. But the deal was, you don’t come to school, you don’t get to go to work and get paid. It was a very successful program that had a lot of great outcomes.”

After the government dropped the grant that funded the program and the school system couldn’t afford to pick up the tab, Antin ended up back in the regular classroom in 1982. He decided it was time for a shift, so he began thinking about what he wanted to do with his life again.

“At the time, computers were just starting to come up, so I went to Columbia at night while I was teaching and learned computer programming,” says Antin. “I was set to leave teaching and sell PCs at a local store when my brother called and asked me to come to LA to work at a healthcare company he was starting.”

Without the educational background I received at NYU and in my own classroom, there’s no way I would have been as successful in my career.

Arthur J. Antin (MA '73)

That call turned into a role as the director of marketing and investor relations at AlternaCare Corporation, a network of publicly traded outpatient surgical centers. The brothers built the company for several years until selling it in 1986.

Now looking for his next big move, Antin came up with the idea of animal healthcare – something practically unheard of at the time.

“Animal hospitals were local mom-and-pop-shops only, so we decided to buy them and network them to make them better and stronger than they were as individuals,” says Antin. “As VCA, Inc., the whole became greater than the sum of its parts.”

Antin’s successful family of animal hospitals grew in both size and scope for decades, expanding its operations to more than 1,000 hospitals throughout the US and Canada. VCA, Inc. went public in 2001 and was sold to Mars, Inc. in 2017. Antin stayed on for several years as a senior advisor working on further expansion into South America and Asia before retiring in 2021.

“Without the educational background I received at NYU and in my own classroom, there’s no way I would have been as successful in my career,” says Antin. “Whether it’s the classroom or the boardroom, you have to know how to walk in and be ‘on stage’ day after day, assess the situation, recognize and foster talent, deal with different kinds of people. These are talents that I learned at Steinhardt and leveraged in business, and they’ve served me well over the years.”

In his retirement, Antin continues his dedication to the success of children by serving on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica, California. Antin was awarded NYU Steinhardt’s Dorothy Height Distinguished Alumni Award in 2020.