How has student life changed at the UA College of Pharmacy over the years? The answers are multiple, from the demographics of the classes and faculty to what and where the students study to how they pay their tuition. Four alumni, two who graduated in the 1950s and two who graduated in the 2000s, share their stories.
The article below is a composite of the alumni’s answers to questions about their experiences in pharmacy school. For more of each person’s individual story, click on his or her name in the following list.
Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
Yvonne Anderson Windham: “My parents were both college graduates and worked as educators in the Tucson public school system. The UA College of Pharmacy was new, and my father said, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ So I did.”
Charles Kendrick: “The most prominent businessman in Texarkana [Texas, where Kendrick was born] was a black pharmacist. He had a car and all the tires matched. The windows rolled up and it even had a radio. He had a custom-built house and wore a necktie with his shirt, had all the ice cream sodas a person could want, and he worked inside. For a black man [in Texarkana in the 1940s], that was unusual. Ever since then, I wanted to be a pharmacist.”
Daniel Massey: “I was an auto mechanic for 17 years. I was always interested in sciences. I watched a lot of science shows on TV. I finally decided to go back to school and become a pharmacist.”
Whitney Shields: “I was always good at math and science. Near the end of my undergraduate education, I decided to go into pharmacy.”
How did you pay for pharmacy school?
Windham: “The cost of attending pharmacy school in 1948 sounds tiny now: $300 to $400 per semester. Although the amount sounds small, there were no grants and very few scholarships. My folks both worked and had good incomes, so they paid for my expenses.”
Kendrick: “My father worked at the UA as a janitor, so I went to sign up for my tuition discount, but they told me that janitors’ kids didn’t count. My dad cleaned the offices of President [James] McCormick and [Richard] Harvill. Even though he worked at the university for many years, I never got the discount the whole time I was there. My daddy had to get two jobs and I had to get two part-time jobs [to pay for school]. They didn’t have [student loans and grants] back then.”
Massey: “I took loans throughout undergrad and graduate school. They built up and I have quite a debt now. My debt was between 84 and 85 thousand [dollars]. Many other [pharmacy students’] debt is over 100 thousand. My loan payments are more than a thousand bucks a month. They are close to a house payment.”*
Shields: “I was very fortunate. My husband works for the UA police department, so I got a tuition reduction. Plus my grandparents helped me my first semester. I didn’t have to take out loans. I was not in debt for school when I graduated.”
*PharmD tuition is now $22,639 per year for residents and $37,601 for non-residents. A poll of the Class of 2011 revealed 71 of 85 graduates had debt from student loans. The range of individual debt was $12,000 to $250,000. To contribute to a scholarship that will help students in need of financial aid, go to the Scholarships web page or the Give Now page.
What was it like at the COP when you went to school here? What are some of your memories?
Windham: “Our class started with three women. Other women came in, but didn’t graduate with my class. In the second class to graduate from the school, in 1951, there were no women. We had no mentors. There were no women on the faculty. Finally Dr. Doris Hawkins came in our senior year.”
Kendrick: “School was not a fun thing for me. Many nights I had to stay up to 2 a.m. studying. They say it builds character, but there must be an easier way to build character. I was nervous all the time. If I had been sick, had an accident or had any type of problem, it would have been all over.”
Shields: “I had a lot of opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom and hold leadership positions. I also found the faculty to be knowledgeable and helpful as mentors. I did not feel any gender discrimination in pharmacy school. There were more women than men in my class. I felt connected to the college and the UA; I got to belong to outside organizations, go to a lot of meetings and networking events. They give you a different perspective than just being in the classroom.”
Massey: “I had to work really hard at [school]. My fellow students were half my age and were in a groove. They would read a book and retain everything in it. But that was not me. I had to read, reread, break out my notes and study more. I had been out of school for 17 years. It took self-discipline and a lot of support from my wife and kids. It was pretty much school from morning to night.”
Did you get any hands-on training?
Windham: “Students had to find and complete internships on their own. Pharmacies were independently owned then, and the owners used students as cheap labor. We three girls sold more cosmetics than we filled prescriptions. The guys [pharmacy students] swept the floors.”
Massey: “Yes, we would go to Fry’s [Food and Pharmacy] and do free blood pressure checks, free glucose checks, brown bag checks. These brown bag checks were when people would bring their medication in and we would look them up and check for dosing and interactions. It gives you some experience.”
What did you do after graduation?
Windham: “I went to work in a hospital. Women weren't accepted in retail stores. People would think you came over [to the pharmacy] from the soda fountain. At the hospital, I earned $300 per month. Men working in retail stores made $350."**
Kendrick: “After school, I joined the Army and went through their officer training school. After my honorable discharge from the Army, I ran a drug store in Phoenix. In 1967 I began working at the Pima County Hospital (now the University of Arizona Medical Center – South Campus) as a staff pharmacist. Altogether I worked as a pharmacist for 42 years.”
Massey: “I graduated from a residency at the UA Medical Center – University Campus June 30th of 2011 and hired on there as a full-time pharmacist July 1st.”
Shields: “After graduation, I completed a first-year residency in general practice at the Tucson Veteran’s Administration hospital, which gave me a good foundation. I now work at Northwest Medical Center. I’m trained to work all over the hospital, but I work predominantly in the ER [emergency room].”
**Starting salaries for pharmacists graduating today are often $100,000 or more.