BY EMILY GUEVARA, firstname.lastname@example.org
On a day it celebrated the contributions of the Brookshire Grocery Co., The University of Texas at Tyler also broke ground on W.T. Brookshire Hall, which will house the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy.
The new pharmacy school promises to be a major economic driver for the region and provide a workforce for a much-needed area in the state, according to university officials.
The university on Tuesday recognized the Brookshire Grocery Co. as the 2014 Patriots of the Year.
This award is given to an individual or individuals that have “made enduring contributions to the advancement of the university and the community,” according to UT Tyler.
In addition to making a substantial financial contribution to fund the building of the Brookshire Pharmacy Hall, the company also helped UT Tyler develop a business degree emphasizing retail management and create a “mock store” retail lab for students to use.
“We’re certainly pleased to show our gratitude to Brookshire Grocery Co. today by naming them Patriots of the Year,” UT Tyler President Dr. Rod Mabry said during a luncheon held in the company’s honor.
The luncheon at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler preceded a groundbreaking on the UT Tyler campus.
Mabry said in addition to the company’s financial contribution, Brad Brookshire, chairman of the company’s board, did two primary things to support the establishment of the pharmacy school.
First, he helped convince state government officials this project was vitally important to Tyler and East Texas.
Mabry said he heard from more than one person when Brookshire was in a meeting where Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst asked what the people wanted, he responded, “We want that pharmacy college.”
Second, Mabry said Brookshire and the rest of the company’s board allowed Brookshire’s President and CEO Rick Rayford to use the company’s available resources to actively support the effort and make it happen.
This included flying UT Tyler officials to Austin for hearings and testifying on behalf of the university in support of the proposed college before the House and Senate.
Brookshire said the company is very appreciative of the award and called it quite an honor.
He praised the work of Rayford, a 42-year veteran of the company and a UT Tyler grad, along with Mabry and state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.
Brookshire said Rayford knew the company had a need for pharmacists and knew other companies likely did, too. He was savvy enough to approach Mabry and talk about the opportunity, Brookshire said.
“Dr. Mabry took this vision, saw the need and then he worked through all the channels (and) made all the right moves,” Brookshire said.
Eltife, who co-authored the pharmacy school bill, took ownership of the bill in the Senate and ably carried it through the legislative process with the support of co-author Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, who sponsored the bill in the House, and nine East Texas delegates as co-sponsors.
“He saw the need, knew it was good for Tyler (and) good for East Texas,” Brookshire said of Eltife.
Brookshire said the company has been a strong supporter of education and this partnership is a perfect match.
“We are honored to be a part of this great endeavor,” he said.
Building the facility
The new $26.5 million Brookshire Pharmacy Hall will be centrally located on the UT Tyler campus, adjacent to the Robert R. Muntz Library and near the Harvey Lake. It will be three stories and have two primary entrances.
Originally, the university planned to build a 40,000 square-foot facility, but with the Brookshire Grocery Co. donation, the school was able to expand that to 60,000 square feet, Mabry said.
The hall, which is slated for completion in May 2015, will be designed to encourage student-faculty interaction and feature classrooms and study areas along with skills labs for hands-on training, according to UT Tyler. It also will include research labs and rooftop terraces.
The accreditation process is underway with the goal of accepting the first class of students in fall 2015. UT Tyler will partner with UT Health Northeast on the pharmacy college’s conducted research, according to a university news release.
Creating the program
The pharmacy school will offer a four-year professional program. Mabry said it’s technically a two plus four program in that students could do two years of undergraduate work and, provided they have all the prerequisites and a stellar academic record, they could get into the program at that point. That said, that doesn’t happen too often, Mabry said.
It will be a private school, which means it will use no public funds, but be funded through student tuition and private donations.
The tuition 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.
Dr. Lane Brunner, founding dean of the Fisch College of Pharmacy, said he is in the process of hiring the leadership team and faculty members.
The faculty must build the curriculum, put together the college’s policies and procedures, and develop academic partnerships in the community, he said.
The plan is to admit 78 students to the first class.
Mabry said there is a great need for the program and a strong medical community here, so the pharmacy college fits well with Tyler and with this region in general.
Mayor Barbara Bass said adding this college to the already existing educational institutions and medical community means, “we can do nothing but be successful.”
Mabry said the pharmacy program can build on the university’s already strong chemistry and biology programs.
“There are very few named, quality pharmacy schools throughout the country, and we’ll be right in there,” he said.