Mother of 4 appreciates financial assist

Laura Adams was not your typical pharmacy student. The 2008 recipient of the Dr. Carolyn Keaton McKenzie Memorial Scholarship traveled a circuitous route to pharmacy school.

“Don’t tell anybody,” Adams says with a wink, “but I graduated from high school in 1987. At that time, I thought I was too smart for more school, so I went into hotel management. I worked my way up to income auditor at the Ritz-Carlton. Then I started getting passed over for promotions.”

Along the way, Adams got married and had four children. She had dreams of becoming a controller, but needed a degree to become a Certified Public Accountant.

“Then my family started having health problems," says Adams. "Our bathroom medicine cabinet looked like a pharmacy. One day in 2002 I was talking to our pharmacist about what cold medication to give one of my children, and it just hit me: ‘This is what I should do. I should become a pharmacist.’”

Adams threw herself into completing her prerequisites at Pima Community College and was accepted into UA COP in the fall of 2005.

“People said I was crazy,” Adams jokes. “They said I would be 40 years old by the time I graduated. My reaction was, ‘So what? I’m going to be 40 years old anyway. I might as well have a pharmacy degree.’”

Adams graduated with her PharmD degree in May 2009.

“It’s expensive to go to pharmacy school,” she says. “I am humbled by the scholarships I received. The Carolyn McKenzie Scholarship meant a great deal to me because, as I understand it, she was a nontraditional pharmacy student, too.”

Carolyn Keaton McKenzie was in her 40s with two children and a first-year pharmacy student at UA in the late 1990s when she had a stroke and had to drop out of school for a time. She recovered enough to return to school and complete her first three years of study, but during her fourth year, she had another stroke and died.

“Carolyn McKenzie was an amazing person,” says Sandy Rogers, retired coordinator of student services. “You would never have known she wasn’t the same age or in the same life circumstances as the other students; she fit right in. It was heartbreaking when she died. She was a real inspiration -- to all kinds of students.”

The UA awarded McKenzie a posthumous PharmD degree in 2003. Her family and friends established the endowed Dr. Carolyn Keaton McKenzie Memorial Scholarship in her honor to memorialize her achievements and her name in perpetuity.

“I appreciated the Carolyn McKenzie scholarship a great deal,” says Adams. “A scholarship with someone’s name on it means more than other types of financial aid, although students are certainly grateful for those, too.

“Some students are trying to raise a family or take care of an elderly parent. This scholarship alleviated some of the financial stress for me. It helped me concentrate on school and being there for my children. I was even able to go to my daughter’s gymnastic events on Saturdays because I didn’t have to work as much to earn money.

“I can see myself endowing a named scholarship in the future. It helps students concentrate on their families and on the patients who need them.”