Manchester University on Friday honored the first 50 students to receive doctor of pharmacy degrees after completing four years of classes on the school’s Fort Wayne campus.
"The world will be better as a result of these Manchester graduates," Dean Raylene Rospond said.
Graduation ceremonies for all 272 students earning Manchester undergraduate and graduate degrees this spring semester are scheduled for today at the Wabash County campus.
But it was the pharmacy school graduates who took center stage Friday at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Education. During a luncheon ceremony, the newly minted pharmacists received the olive green hoods, or ornamental scarves that signify by their color the type of degree being conferred.
They also stood and recited the pharmacist’s oath, during which they vowed their primary concerns will be "the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering."
Richard Ekanem, class president, had suffering on his mind when he faced the audience of more than 400 and admitted he was suffering from stage fright.
"I probably should have taken that beta blocker," he said to the delight of his classmates and faculty. Beta blockers are prescription drugs that lower blood pressure.
Ekanem, who was chosen by fellow students to receive the Manchester Excellence Award, assured his peers that after graduating from what he considers to be one of the best pharmacy schools in the country, they "are prepared to tackle anything."
Andrea Whitaker was given the Dean’s Excellence Award for having the highest academic performance in the class. She graduates summa cum laude.
The College of Pharmacy, which is housed in a $20 million, 80,000-square-foot building, opened at the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus in August 2012.
The Indianapolis-based Lilly Foundation awarded then Manchester College $35 million in 2010 to help launch the pharmacy school. It was the largest gift Manchester had ever received and the largest Lilly grant awarded that year.
Over the years, Manchester has established a strong reputation in the sciences, giving graduates a solid foundation for medical or graduate school. Fort Wayne provided a natural location for the College of Pharmacy because students could easily get practical experience by working in Parkview Health or Lutheran Health Network hospitals or in various retail pharmacies.
Manchester’s 2009 announcement that it planned to open a pharmacy school here was enthusiastically received by local economic development officials, who had made it a goal to attract education programs that award professional degrees.
John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, was among those who supported Manchester’s efforts to launch the school and get it accredited.
"This is incredible news for our region," Sampson said Friday about the program’s first graduating class.
Pharmacy students develop relationships with local professionals and employers when they do on-the-job training, he said. By attracting and retaining highly skilled students to study in Fort Wayne, the region has a better chance of getting those professionals to settle here for the long term.
"And that’s what we need," he added.
Molly Grasberger is one of those highly capable local students who seemed destined to leave the region.
The North Side High School graduate tweaked her undergraduate plans after reading a newspaper article about Manchester’s plan to launch a pharmacy school.
"I took a chance that I’d get in and could stay close to my friends and family," she said after the ceremony.
The daughter of one nurse and niece of another always knew she wanted to go into the health care profession. Grasberger, 25, likes that pharmacists interact with patients regularly – with no appointment required.
"They say we’re a very trusted health care professional," she said. "And that’s very important to me."
Grasberger will leave the state after graduation but hopes to return after a one-year residency in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The newlywed is taking additional training with the goal of being able to accompany physicians when they make patient rounds in hospitals.
A decade ago, almost anyone who wanted to study beyond the master’s level had to leave northeast Indiana to attend classes. Since then, Indiana Tech built a $15 million law school in Fort Wayne and numerous other educational institutions have added doctoral programs.
Purdue University and Butler University are the only other institutions in the state awarding doctorates in pharmacology. Both are in central Indiana.
More than 90 percent of Manchester’s graduating pharmacists have jobs or additional training lined up, Rospond said. The rest are sifting through multiple offers while they decide where they want to live.
Of those who are decided, almost half are staying in Indiana; the rest are moving to 14 other states, according to information from the dean’s office. One-third of the students who are staying in state will be in northeast Indiana.