Photo by Skip Schmiett


Retiring College of Pharmacy faculty members look back at the creation of a college—and a lasting friendship.


Mention “the black crow” to four senior College of Pharmacy faculty members and all you hear is laughter. “I wasn’t there, but all of us who sit together at lunch know the story,” says Harold Wolf PhD’61, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and manager of the college’s Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program. “You’ll have to get Dave to tell you.”

David B. Roll, professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry, finally does—after he stops laughing—from his office in Washington, D.C., where he is serving as a congressional fellow for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

“When we were first at the University in the late 1960s,” says Roll, “Dean [L. David] Hiner was very paternalistic toward his faculty. There were breakfasts, banquets we had to go to. “One night, we were at a Rho Chi [pharmacy honor society] banquet at Chuck-A-Rama. No libations, no nothing. We had a presentation by a woman who’d been on the Good Ship Hope, a hospital ship, somewhere in India. She came in with about three carousels of slides.

“She goes on and on. Then she shows us a picture of a crow you couldn’t see. It was black on black. She must have shown us a half dozen pictures of what you couldn’t see.”

“We had a hard time hiding our hysteria,” says Arthur D. Broom, professor of medicinal chemistry, in his version of the story. James W. Gibb, professor of pharmacology, chuckles even now as he leans back, hands behind his head, remembering the event in his office in the biomedical polymers building. “There must have been a black crow in every slide,” he says.

Now their code word for any tedious event, “the black crow” is just another humorous memory to the men who, for years, have shared a table and similar jokes in University Hospital’s cafeteria. But like any good story, there’s more to this one—just as there’s more to this group of four.

“The three you’ve interviewed—Art, Jim, and Dave—have made the institution what it is today,” says Wolf, who served as the college’s third dean from 1976-1989. “These people have committed their entire professional lives to the University of Utah, and that provides a level of stability in senior leadership that has been helpful to every dean.”

John W. Mauger, current dean, insists Wolf be included in the praise. “These men are the history and the heritage of the College of Pharmacy. They are our institutional memory.”

Wolf, who first came to the U in 1956 as a graduate student in pharmacology, will retire fully in 2004. Broom is stepping down next fall; he joined the faculty in 1966 and was charter chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Gibb, who is in phased retirement, joined the college the same year as Roll—1967—and was chair of the former Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and, later, the Department of Pharmacology and

Although these men will be closing doors to their offices and labs, they have opened many others for the college, ranked 16th in the nation for five consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. For six consecutive years, the college’s biomedical programs have been ranked second in the nation for peer-reviewed research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). More than two-thirds of practicing pharmacists in Utah are graduates of the college, whose 3,000 alumni include researchers, educators, administrators, and entrepreneurs worldwide.

As with much of history, however, the men didn’t set out with a well-defined plan to achieve excellence. “I can’t ever remember sitting down and thinking about it. We never had those kinds of discussions,” says Roll, who twice served as acting dean and was associate dean for academic affairs. “We were coming into positions, developing classes and courses, and trying to get our research off the ground. We were just trying to survive.”

“We were all young turks, trying to carve out an academic career,” agrees Gibb. “It was kind of a bootstrap

operation.” Yet Wolf could see the outlines of excellence taking form when he interviewed to be dean. He had been away from Utah for 15 years and had no intention of leaving his position at Ohio State University. The Boston native had never ventured west of Chicago until he moved to Salt Lake City for graduate school, and didn’t plan on returning.

“When my wife, Joan, and I drove to the corner of the Wasatch Range in 1961, we looked over our shoulders and said, ‘These have been good years, but we will never ever be back here again,’” says Wolf. “I was here in the early years of the college. It was a very, very different environment. The entire college consisted of three faculty members and the dean, and eight or nine graduate students.”

During his interview, however, he says, “I realized the potential was much greater than I’d thought. I decided it was a place that had a very good chance of becoming one of the better colleges of pharmacy in the United States.”

The possibility for collaborative research impressed Wolf, particularly “the very special relationship that had developed between the College of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine, because of Ewart and Lou.”

The late Louis S. Goodman, first chair of the medical school’s Department of Pharmacology, had already co-authored the textbook still considered “the blue bible” of pharmacology. In fact, that’s what had drawn Wolf westward in the first place. The late Ewart W. Swinyard PhD’47—Wolf ’s mentor—was Goodman’s first graduate student. As the first faculty member in the pharmacy college when it was established in 1946, Swinyard also had a joint appointment in the medical school.

The two men influenced Gibb, as well. “That combination—Lou Goodman and Ewart Swinyard—was very attractive to me. But I have to admit, it was the quality of the Department of Pharmacology—not to detract from the College of Pharmacy—that drew me,” says Gibb of his interview for a job at the U.

The former Canadian had just finished a postdoc at the NIH and was impressed with Swinyard’s leadership. “He maintained that research should be the basis of any pharmacy education,” says Gibb. “Ewart really made it the center of his administration, and it turned out to be a very wise move.”

Broom might not have joined the U faculty were it not for the future he saw in research. After working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he found Salt Lake City “rustic, shall we say,” when he was offered a one-year position to start up a lab in the new, and then rather empty, L.S. Skaggs Hall. “The University was eyeballing all the space,” recalls the medicinal chemist, who joined the faculty the next year. “Ewart was the only person doing research, and he wanted to expand the capabilities.

“From that point, we had a nucleus of researchers and were able to attract top students. With gifted people in the dean’s office, we were able to build the college to what it is today”: 69 faculty members, 120 graduate students, and 117 undergraduates. A confirmed researcher—“I’ve been funded by NIH and the American Cancer Society pretty much my whole career”—Broom has managed to keep it in perspective. “As Hal would remind us, the sign on the building doesn’t say ‘Skaggs Hall of Research.’ It says ‘College of Pharmacy.’ Here, the leadership has always recognized the importance of research while maintaining the centrality
of the college.”

He attributes this balance to the way in which the college has, from the very beginning, recruited faculty members. “The expectation is that you will be a good researcher, publish and get funding, and, in the same breath, be a good teacher. We’re serious about it,” says Broom. “Research gets us recognized nationally, but it’s equally important that our people perform well in the classroom and communicate to students.”

No one in the history of the college has devoted more energy to teaching than Roll. He was elected an Outstanding Educator of America, received the college’s Distinguished Teaching Award twice, the ASUU Students’ Choice for Teaching Award twice, and the University’s Presidential Teaching Scholar Award. “Originally, I did some research, certainly not a whole lot,” says Roll. The Montana native knew he wanted an academic position after finishing his doctorate at the University of Washington. But an acute illness prevented him from interviewing anywhere. After he had spent one year as a research chemist in a public health lab in Florida, a position in the West opened up.

At the U, Roll’s talent soon was recognized. “I ended up with a rather large teaching load,” he says, though it’s a phrase he doesn’t like. “We always talk about ‘teaching loads’ but ‘research opportunities.’ There is a certain bias in those terms. We live on research dollars—I understand all that. But I don’t think we’re a kinder, gentler place for it.

“The whole trend we’re seeing in higher education today is a lot more me, me, me; less us, less looking out for the good of the whole endeavor. When we first came, there seemed to be time for everyone to be concerned about what was happening to the college,” says Roll. “When one of us had a success, why, that meant we all got closer together. There wasn’t jealousy. We succeeded in different ways at different times.”

“Collegiality is an important part of what we do in the college,” agrees Broom. “It doesn’t mean we always get along swimmingly. But we can always work together, even if we’re miffed.” He speaks from experience. The college has undergone two major changes in the years since 1976. First, Wolf reorganized the original two departments and created five, four of which remain: medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology (which absorbed the medical school’s pharmacology department in 1986), and pharmacy practice.

“It was quite new, but wasn’t unique,”says Wolf of the reorganization, which had been seconded by a consultant. The other change is in the final stages of implementation. With the class of 2006, students will graduate with a doctor of pharmacy degree, rather than a bachelor’s. “It’s been a long-standing intellectual thrust of mine that doctoral education is the only and appropriate degree for the practice of pharmacy,” says Wolf, who chaired the National Commission to Implement Change in Pharmacy Education for the AACP.

The U faculty voted to make the curricular change in 1988. However, “some of us were kicking and struggling,” says Broom, who now admits, “Art Broom was dead wrong. Hal moved us into the entry-level Pharm.D. educational arena but kept the research ship afloat.”

Echoing Broom, Wolf notes, “Collegiality is the key to much of the success that the college has enjoyed.

Competence is necessary, but it’s not enough. One of the things that attracted me to come to the U originally was the level of collegiality apparent at the entire health sciences center.”

In this group of faculty members, respect and admiration have also drawn them together. “Hal was the perfect dean for the time,” says Broom of his 67-year-old friend. “He’s a very funny guy and one of the best speakers. I love to listen to him talk.”

Broom, 65, is “one of the sharpest, smartest people I’ve ever met,” says Roll. “He wasn’t a pharmacist, but he was able to come in and teach courses at levels people appreciated and found relevant.”

At 62, Roll is the self-described “bad jokester of the group. I love bad puns.” Gibb, 69, is seen by his colleagues as “genuinely one of the nicest people,” “a true gentleman,” and “a very good scientist.”

Humor, too, has kept the friends together. These days, their jokes are often about “ailing and failing body parts.” But there’s always the black crow—which isn’t really a story about bad slides as much as believing in, and pursuing, what you can’t always see: the promise of greatness.

—Susan Sample is editor of the University’s Health Sciences Report magazine.