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History of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, established in 1897 under Dean Edward Vernon Howell, is the only public school of pharmacy in the state of North Carolina and one of the oldest in the nation. More than half of the school’s 6,000 alumni live in North Carolina and serve the health-care needs of the state’s citizens.

More than a Century of Growth

A lab at the School in the 1930s.The pharmacy school was established at the University of North Carolina in March of 1897 in response to urgent requests of the pharmacists of the state and on the recommendations of university administration. Edward Vernon Howell, a pharmacist from Rocky Mount, was appointed professor and dean of the School.

The first pharmacy class of 1897 had seventeen students, one instructor, and tuition was $75 a year. A dorm room ran $4 to $10 a month and board was another $5. The curriculum required two years of study and led to the graduate in pharmacy (PhG) degree.

The first home of the School was on the ground floor of New West, where it remained from 1897 to 1912. The School relocated to Person Hall in 1912 and then to Howell Hall in 1925. In 1959, the School of Pharmacy moved into its current location, Beard Hall, named for John Grover Beard, dean of the School from 1930 to 1946. In 2007, Beard Hall wrapped up a $6 million renovation. 

In 2002, Banks D. Kerr Hall, an annex to Beard, was opened, doubling the space of the School and providing a modern research wing and outstanding new teaching facilities. A "building-inside-a-building" shared-instrument facility houses and isolates nuclear magnetic resonance and advanced microscope equipment.

On May 21, 2008, the School was renamed in honor of Fred Eshelman, CEO and founder of Wilmington-based PPD Inc and a member of the Class of 1972. In 2003, Eshelman pledged $20 million to the School. At the time, it was the third largest single commitment in the University’s history and the largest ever made to a pharmacy school in the United States. He committed another $10 million to the School in 2007 to support educational initiatives and cancer research. Eshelman's total support of the School has amounted to approximately $33 million.

In 2008, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine opened the Genetic Medicine Building located off Mason Farm Road, just east of the Environmental Protection Agency building. Pharmacy researchers occupy approximately 75,000 square feet of laboratory space on the first and second floor, allowing them to work closely with their colleagues in Medicine and giving Pharmacy a strong presence in the heart of Carolina’s health sciences campus.

A History of the UNC School of Pharmacy, by Professor Emeritus George H. Cocolas, focusing on the 1950s–2003.

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