Pharmacy Historical Information - page 2


Dean Parr, whose dedication to pharmaceutical education had already given the Ferris Institute Department of Pharmacy a reputation for excellence, again paved the way in 1932 for the inauguration of the four-year curriculum leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. In the spring of following year, the newly designated College of Pharmacy granted this degree for the first time at Ferris to four members of the graduating class. This was indeed an unusual graduation ceremony since, in addition to the four graduates receiving their degree of Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, several young men and women received either the degree of Pharmaceutical Chemist or a Diploma in Pharmacy, depending upon the length of their curriculum. This anomaly, however, was not to exist for long. The four-year program became the minimum requirement for graduates for all students entering the College of Pharmacy in 1936, and all other shorter courses were withdrawn from the catalogue in 1937.

Dean Parr accepted an appointment in 1933 as director of drugs and drugstores for the State of Michigan, and it was through the efforts of his able successor, Dean Eber H. Wisner (1933-37), that the College of Pharmacy gained membership in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in 1938. Dean Simon Benson (1937-41), appointed to that office upon the untimely death of Dean Wisner, petitioned for full accreditation of the College of Pharmacy by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, and accreditation was granted by that organization on December 1, 1939. Continuation of accreditation has been confirmed by Council visitations in 1950, 1954, 1964, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1991, 1997 and 2004.


Dean Howard Hopkins, succeeding Dean Benson in 1941, faced one of the most trying times in the history of the school. World War II depleted the enrollment to less than 50 students in the entire institution and brought on an era of extreme financial difficulties. In addition, the formation of a pharmacy program at the University of Grand Rapids that was headed by former Ferris Dean Parr not only successfully competed for students, but also attracted several Ferris faculty. Hope for recovery must have appeared dim to Mr. Ralph Wilson (1944-56) when he assumed the duties of the dean of pharmacy in 1944. However, with the cessation of hostilities the following year and the influx of veterans under the GI Bill of Rights, enrollment returned to normal and the crisis was somewhat relieved.

G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams

The problems created by the war years were not entirely solved. The pressure of the indebtedness incurred during this period, as well as the general feeling that the institution could and did fill an important need to Michigan higher education prompted the board of trustees to offer Ferris Institute to the state of Michigan as a memorial to the late Senator Ferris. The Smith-VanderWerp Bill (Act 114, Michigan Public Acts of 1949) passed both houses of the state legislature and was signed by Governor G. Mennen Williams on May 17, 1949. This act made Ferris Institute a state college, effective July 1, 1950. On February 21, 1950, shortly before the state was to assume control, a devastating fire destroyed the Main Building and the Pharmacy Building, including the entire college library. Only Alumni Hall and the temporary barracks used as dormitories remained standing. Through the cooperation of the businessmen and citizens of Big Rapids, temporary classrooms were made available throughout the city, enabling instruction to be continued almost without interruption.


Renovation of the Alumni Building and the temporary buildings permitted the return of all classes to the campus shortly after the fire. The appointment in 1952 of Dr. Victor F. Spathelf as the 10 th president of Ferris signaled the beginning an era of vast expansion for the institution. The original holdings, consisting of the Alumni Building, a few war surplus buildings, and 19 acres of land, grew into a thoughtfully planned and artistically designed campus of 362 acres encompassing 35 new instructional, residential, and service buildings. The increased facilities and greatly enlarged faculty enabled the school to expand the scope of its instructional offerings by supplementing existing programs and introducing new ones. Recognition of the role of the institution as a necessary and desirable component of the state system of higher education came in 1959, when Ferris Institute was granted full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

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