Generous families the right medicine

Published on Saturday, 3 May 2014 22:55 - Written by

Are you trying to find a way to get things done, when funds are tight and projects are being put off?

Tyler has just the prescription for that.

Last week’s groundbreaking of the new Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Tyler was more than just the symbolic start of construction. It was significant of the kind of success Tyler finds when its public sectors and private sectors join efforts in a worthy cause.

There’s the traditional path state universities must travel to establish a new school or program — officials must wait in line as other projects and other priorities are attended to first.

Tyler chose a different path. Sure, university officials and civic leaders went to Austin numerous times to convince state officials the program is needed. But they didn’t go with just their hats in their hands. They went with a proposal for a bold public-private partnership that would fund the program.

The pharmacy school will be a private school within a public university. It will use no public funds, but be funded through student tuition and private donations.

Those donations have exceeded the best hopes of organizers; instead of a 40,000-square-foot facility, the W.T. Brookshire Pharmacy Hall will be 60,000 square feet.

Brookshire Grocery Co. made a generous donation that will go toward the building of the school’s facilities. Indeed, Brookshire’s President and CEO Rick Rayford was a driving force pushing the project, with the help of state Sen. Kevin Eltife.

And if you don’t recognize the names Ben and Maytee Fisch, by the way, that would probably have been just fine with them. The late Tyler couple loved giving, but they loved giving anonymously. Dr. Ben Fisch, a longtime Tyler physician, died in 2007. Mrs. Maytee Fisch, who died in 2002, had earned a degree in pharmacy in 1945. Their legacy in the community goes far beyond the Fisch Foundation, which generously donated funds for the school. It’s appropriate that it be named for the couple.

Tuition at the school will cost about $33,500 per year and students can expect to earn on average $115,000 per year working as a pharmacist in Texas, or slightly higher in the Tyler area, according to wage data online.

The first class of 78 students is scheduled to start in the fall of 2015.

A public-private partnership like this serves as a model for what communities can accomplish when everyone is working together. This should also serve as a great catalyst for other projects. As Mayor Barbara Bass rightly said last week, working together means “we can do nothing but be successful.”

Education is one of the most vital parts of the economic engine of East Texas. The other vital part? Health care. The Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy represents a classic application of leveraging strength upon strength.

Everyone involved in this outstanding project — from the donors to the facilitators to its champions both locally and in Austin — should be congratulated for bringing this worthy concept to fruition.