The University of Arizona R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy has a history of embracing its entrepreneurial spirit and offering innovative pharmacy programs, centers and research that identifies new therapies and standards of care.
On September 1, 1947, the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy opened thanks to a 23-year campaign led by Tucson pharmacist Andrew P. Martin and the Arizona Pharmacy Association. Rufus Lyman, MD, was chosen as founding dean and the first 25 students and three faculty members completed the majority of their studies in a surplus Army hut.
Dean Lyman retired in 1950. Dean Haakon Bang is appointed and quickly worked to establish the first five-year curriculum leading to a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree in the nation. Dean Bang left in 1952, and 33-year-old Willis R. Brewer, PhD, is named Dean. Brewer is the youngest person ever appointed as dean of the University of Arizona.
Albert L. Picchioni, PhD, joined the faculty in 1953 and began taking calls from local physicians with questions about poisonings. His dedication leads to the creation of the College's first Center of Excellence, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
In 1959, the College began offering a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Pharmacology.
The College was given more space in the Chemistry-Pharmacy building and the building has air conditioning for the first time. The searing Tucson summers prompted Dean Brewer to remark that "air conditioning of the entire building is hailed as the greatest development since the establishment of the College."
The College moved to the new Pharmacy-Microbiology building in 1966 and The History of Pharmacy Museum was founded with Jesse and Mary Hurlbut selected as its pharmacy historians. As a drugstore owner and pharmacy inspector, Jesse meticulously collected artifacts during his lifetime that would eventually help make up the College's internationally-recognized collection.
The pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology and toxicology departments are established. The College's research reputation bloomed with faculty expertise in medicinal uses of southwestern plants, poison treatments, toxicology, anti-tumor studies and more.
The 25th pharmacy class graduates in 1974, bringing the number of UA pharmacy alumni to 1,012.
Dean Brewer retired in 1975, and in 1977, Jack R. Cole, PhD, '53, becomes the first alumnus to be named dean. Upon his arrival, Dr. Cole set out to build a permanent home for the College of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. His efforts to raise funds is successful and landed a $1 million grant from Skaggs Companies, Inc. Construction began on the new building in 1979.
The College moved to its newly constructed home in the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center in 1982. That same year, the College began offering the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree as a pathway for becoming a clinical pharmacist. In 1985, I. Glenn Sipes, PhD, head of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology began coordinating a new institute, the Center for Toxicology, the second Center of Excellence founded at the College. The Center later grows to include the Superfund Basic Research Program and the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center.
During the 1980s, the College's third Center of Excellence, the Center for Health Outcomes and PharmacoEconomic Research was founded. The Center worked to assess health from a clinical, economic and humanistic view.
In the 1989/1990 academic year, the College phased out the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree in favor of the Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
By the mid-nineties, the NIH ranked the College second in the nation in total research expenditures, in excess of $9 million annually. That same year, the College launched its first-ever website.
Expansion is once again necessary, and in 2006, the College moved into its new building on campus, Drachman Hall. That same year, the Medication Management Center launched, aimed at transforming pharmacy practice and pioneering a new model for patient care by better managing the health of patients with multiple conditions, medications and providers.
In 2007, the College expanded its footprint to Phoenix, and in 2014, it welcomed its first three PharmD students who were taught using live video streaming from the College in Tucson.
Rick Schnellmann became the seventh dean of the College in 2016, and less than a year into his tenure, the College launched the Skaggs Challenge. The $26 million challenge grant aimed to raise funds for much-needed expansion and renovation of the now 36-year-old Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center.
The challenge was kick-started with a $10 million gift from the ALSAM Foundation and Skaggs family--the same family who provided original funding for the building.
In early 2018, the challenge grant is deemed a success. Expansion and renovation work began in September.
The College receives the largest gift in its history from alumnus R. Ken Coit in 2021. The transformative gift of $50 million established new endowed chairs, scholarships, and professorships.
In 2022, the Coit Museum of Pharmacy & Health Sciences celebrated its grand opening. A statue of our college namesake was also unveiled to commemorate the occasion and celebrate Coit's legacy.