More than half of Washington State University’s living pharmacy alumni graduated during Allen I. White’s 39-year tenure (1940-1979) as professor and/or dean of the College of Pharmacy. He was appointed dean in 1960, a position he held until retirement 19 years later. Last June, he and his wife, Edith, moved from Pullman to Fountain Hills, Arizona, where he died December 23, 2002 at age 88.
The Silverton, Oregon native and son of a Lutheran minister completed three degrees from the University of Minnesota-a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy (1937) and both a master’s degree (1938) and a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry (1940). In 1983 he won the UM’s Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award.
At WSU, his career was devoted to working with students, faculty, colleagues, and the health care profession.
“He influenced the lives of countless individuals,” says William Fassett, dean of the College of Pharmacy. “The extremely strong support that today’s alumni give to the college is founded in large part on the student-oriented character of Al White . . . .”
White led the transformation in pharmacy education at WSU away from a heavy emphasis on basic science and an orientation toward drug products. He advocated a more balanced model-one emphasizing the clinical role of the modern pharmacist whose drug expertise is made available in a patient-focused practice.
“He taught me to teach by motivation, rather than intimidation,” says R. Keith Campbell (’64 Pharm.), associate dean of the college. “He . . . was a good leader because he gave us all a sense of hope and pride in who we were and what we were trying to accomplish.”
One of White’s first charges as dean was to “go out and get some more students.” With the assistance of the Washington Pharmaceutical Association, he met with high school and community college faculty and counselors to discuss career opportunities for students in pharmacy. In the decade leading up to his retirement, pharmacy enrollment grew to 250-255 students in the professional education program, with an additional 15 to18 graduate students.
Earlier, however, things were not so rosy. In a December 1973 report, the state Council on Higher Education recommended there be only one college of pharmacy in the state and expressed a strong preference that it be located at the University of Washington. In response, White fired off a letter to WSU president Glenn Terrell, stating, “It seems clear to me that the College of Pharmacy should expect a fight for its life.” The college survived and now has a Doctor of Pharmacy program at WSU Spokane.
White became involved in internal affairs of the University as a member of the influential faculty “Committee of Forty,” 1945-46; as a faculty representative on the Athletic Council, 1946-48; and on the Council of Academic Deans, 1960-79.
During the college’s centennial celebration in 1992, the pharmacy care laboratory in Wegner Hall was named in his honor. He served as president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 1973-74.
A dedicated scholar, he had 83 publications to his credit. And after retiring, he wrote The History of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy, 1891-1991, published in 1996. The history connects events in the college with those that took place at WSU and throughout the state, and documents the struggles and achievements of the faculty and alumni and their dedication to quality pharmacy education at WSU.
White believed the advances in scientific and technical knowledge, as well as the social, economic, and political changes that occurred during the 20th century had profound effects on the delivery of health care globally.
“The challenge for the pharmacy faculty,” he wrote, “was inherent in those changes . . . not in passively observing them, but in responding to them with the development of fresh approaches in pharmaceutical education that would prepare its students to participate effectively in the emerging systems for health care.”
Last year the College of Pharmacy established the Allen I. White Endowed Professorship, an effort to raise half a million dollars to augment the work of a professor and a graduate assistant. Memorial gifts may be made to the endowment, c/o the WSU Foundation, 255 E. Main, Suite 200, Pullman, Washington 99164-1927.