Building a Founders Day Tradition

Published on 12 December 2018

On Nov. 11, 1864, St. Louis College of Pharmacy was officially founded in the hall of the St. Louis Medical College. In recent years, Founders Day has become one of the College’s most important traditions, as the campus community unites to reflect on all those who have contributed to the College’s legacy.

“Since I first arrived at the College, I had always wanted to make Founders Day a standing part of our calendar,” said John A. Pieper, Pharm.D., FAPhA, FCCP, president of the College. “Seeing how Founders Day was celebrated at other institutions, I wanted to get our campus community engaged around an annual institutional event to remember and honor our history.”

The College’s first true celebration of Founders Day came with the celebration of its sesquicentennial in 2014. In 2015, the College commemorated Founders Day by hosting an official groundbreaking ceremony for the Recreation and Student Center, followed by a campus lunch and birthday cake.

In recent years, the College’s annual community day of service, known as STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. (Community Awareness Reaching Everyone in St. Louis), has become an integral part of the celebration.

Established in 2001 by members of the Student Pharmacists Association, STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to volunteer at sites across the St. Louis region. From providing health screenings at area pharmacies to walking dogs at Stray Rescue of St. Louis, a variety of volunteer opportunities represent a spectrum of needs in the local community.

“Incorporating the tradition of STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. into our Founders Day celebration was a natural progression,” Pieper said. “STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. truly embodies the spirit of the College and our founders’ commitment to positively impacting patients and society. I can’t think of a better way to begin our Founders Day celebration.”

Since STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. was integrated into the Founders Day celebration, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have donated their time at numerous nonprofit organizations and pharmacy sites across the St. Louis area. The volunteer activities provide value to organizations and community members across St. Louis, and they also create a meaningful shared experience for the volunteers.

“STLCOP C.A.R.E.S. is a special event because it’s an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to see each other outside the classroom and the workplace and really get to know each other on a more personal level,” said Nicole Gattas, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, associate professor of pharmacy practice, assistant director in the Office of Experiential Education, and member of the Founders Day planning committee.

Another feature of the celebration is a Founders Day Convocation featuring a guest speaker. This November, the College welcomed William E. Evans, Pharm.D., chair of pharmacogenomics in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, as well as former president and CEO, at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I think it’s so important for institutions to understand and reflect on their history, as doing so provides a foundation for building a successful future,” Evans said. “At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we are constantly connecting to our history and our founder, Danny Thomas. While we’re a much younger organization than St. Louis College of Pharmacy, both of our institutions are standing on the shoulders of those who had great vision and wherewithal.”

As the Founders Day traditions have grown, so has the involvement of alumni in the celebration. In 2016, the Alumni Association first recognized its Distinguished Alumni Award recipients as part of a ceremony following the Founders Day Convocation. Today, Founders Day serves as the official kickoff to Reunion.

“Founders Day is a great opportunity for alumni to join current students, faculty and staff in celebrating

our history,” said Kathy Gardner, vice president of advancement and chief development officer. “We want alumni to be a part of the celebration, enjoy lunch and birthday cake with the College community, listen to our convocation speaker and support those being honored with Distinguished Alumni Awards. It’s a perfect way to kick off the Reunion celebration.”

Alumni are also encouraged to participate in the annual Founders Day 5K, which takes place during Reunion weekend.

“Whether you’re a former student, a current student or a faculty or staff member, Founders Day is a very special time at the College,” Pieper said. “As we continue to build our traditions around this day, we remain committed to honoring the spirit of those revolutionary men whose leadership and foresight helped make us the successful institution we are today.”

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