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Big boost for school of pharmacy

$35 million Lilly gift eases Manchester move locally

Officials from Manchester College and the Lilly Endowment will announce a $35 million gift to the college’s School of Pharmacy today, instantly propelling the planned Fort Wayne campus five years forward in its planning.

Manchester had announced the state’s third pharmacy doctorate program in October 2009, with the school planned to open in 2012. That has not changed, but programs that would have been phased in can begin right away, and new options are suddenly available, thanks to the massive grant. Manchester officials had hoped to raise up to $12 million to start the school.

“It really means everything to us,” Manchester President Jo Young Switzer told The Journal Gazette. “For someone to entrust us with these kinds of resources is a real statement of optimism in our success. It really lets us do it right.”

It also gives the startup instant credibility, officials said.

“It’s a real boon for the School of Pharmacy,” said the school’s dean, Philip J. Medon. “It puts it at a different level.”

Medon said the gift changes almost everything, from recruiting faculty to building facilities.

“I can’t imagine things being much better right now,” he said.

Current plans call for the school to be in the Fort Wayne Cardiology building, 1819 Carew St., on Parkview Hospital’s Randallia Drive campus. Manchester was negotiating a lease for the building, which became available just as Manchester needed it.

Switzer said those plans have not changed, but she said the grant allows for more options, from buying the building outright to exploring other locations that might be an even better fit.

“It opens options, but we haven’t made any changes at this point,” Switzer said.

One component that will not change is the size of the four-year program, officials said. Manchester’s School of Pharmacy will have about 265 students and about 40 faculty and staff.

Officials said the grant will also strengthen an already strong relationship with Parkview Health, Lutheran Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs, by being able to develop the partnerships and student-experience programs sooner. Faculty will be able to be in place developing curriculum months before the school opens.

Gretchen Wolfram, spokeswoman for the Lilly Endowment, said the grant fits in with the private foundation’s desire to help Indiana’s economy move in a new direction.

Medco Health Solutions, which recently opened a massive prescription-filling facility in Indiana, cited the pharmacy doctorate programs at Butler and Purdue universities as factors in its decision to locate here.

Not only will the school be a perfect fit with the regional health community, but many of the future graduates – whose average starting salary is more than $100,000 – will stay in the area, adding to the community.

This “tremendous investment in Manchester College’s School of Pharmacy is another validation of Fort Wayne’s growing role as the medical, educational and innovation hub of Northeast Indiana,” Mayor Tom Henry said. “ … We are helping to nurture the highly skilled workforce of the future.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels also praised the gift in a prepared statement.

“Indiana has witnessed an explosion in new pharmacy jobs the last few years, with world leaders like Medco and Express Script adding thousands of jobs to an already fast growing profession,” Daniels said. “Manchester and the Lilly Endowment have taken exactly the right step in adding to the state’s capacity to train its young people for this noble and high-earning career path.”

Officials will discuss details related to the grant today. It is the largest gift the liberal arts and sciences college, located about 35 miles west of Fort Wayne, has ever received.

“Pharmacy doctorate is a difficult program to start, so this was an exciting time for all of us,” Medon said. “But this (grant) gives us a chance to put in a top-quality program that will serve Fort Wayne quite well.”