Drawn to the Chalkboard

Published on 06 November 2019

Mickey Smith, B.S. '60, M.S. '62, is something of a Renaissance man. He is a prolific author, historian, world traveler, marketer, academician and pharmacist, just to name a few of his hobbies and careers. Guided by his passion for seeking and sharing knowledge, Smith carved a path in pharmacy, but he almost took another road entirely. Before enrolling at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Smith had every intent of pursuing a degree in English.

"I just love words," Smith glowed. "But my parents were hesitant about my degree choice and encouraged me to follow in the footsteps of my uncle and pursue a career in pharmacy. Fortunately, I realized I didn't need an English degree to write!"

After earning his Bachelor of Science and then Master of Science from the College, Smith was mentored by professor Gerald Henney, B.S. '52, who encouraged him to apply to graduate school in pharmacy administration.

"He was very much an important influence in my life," Smith explained. "Henney was a product of the Purdue program under the direction of Bob Evanson, where pharmacy administration was in its infancy."

And so, Smith set off for Oxford, Mississippi, where he would earn his Doctor of Philosophy from University of Mississippi. As one of the first graduate students enrolled in a recognized pharmacy administration program, Smith was exposed to an area of pharmacy that was just beginning to gain traction in the wider profession.

Upon graduating in 1964, he took a marketing manager position at Pharmacia Laboratories, a Swedish pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, where he worked for two years before returning to Mississippi where he was drawn to the chalkboard and to writing.

The author of more than 20 books and 400 articles, Smith used his love of writing to champion pharmacy administration and explore topics from "Principles of Pharmaceutical Marketing" to the social and behavioral aspects of pharmacy practice. Smith even went beyond his more instructional topics and dove into the "fascinating history" of pharmacy such as with his book, "The Rexall Story: A History of Genius and Neglect."

When Smith recalls his days at the College, he has fond memories of the usual suspects, such as James Thayer, Frank Mercer, Ph.G., '34, B.S. '35, and Charles Rabe, B.S. '39, but most importantly he noted the impact that his German and English literature professor, Walter Rist, had on him.

When Smith took to the chalkboard at University of Mississippi in 1966, he brought his enthusiasm for the liberal arts with him, often beginning class with a quote, sometimes Shakespeare, but most importantly, it was the imparting of knowledge that invigorated Smith.

"When it comes to teaching, I see myself as a wholesaler of knowledge," Smith explained. "I go out and find a bunch of fascinating and important things, I repackage them, and I sell them to the students. I guess what makes teaching so fun for me is that I get to share my excitement and pass on all of the fun and interesting things I have learned."

Smith found his calling at University of Mississippi and never left. During his tenure there, he garnered a number of awards, including being named Mississippi's Professor of the Year in 1993, an honor conferred annually on one college instructor per state by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and receiving the first-ever Distinguished Educator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, among many, many more. In 1999, he was named Frederick A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pharmacy Administration, Research Professor Emeritus of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (RIPS) and Director Emeritus of the Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management of RIPS. He was also recognized by the College in 1990 with the Distinguished Service to the Profession Award and bestowed with an honorary doctorate in 2011.

"I think in one word, what I loved most about teaching was sharing," Smith said fondly. "That's what drove me and enlivened me. I loved getting up there and being in charge of 150 students. What I try to convey to students is that the university is giving you an opportunity of a lifetime, and if you do your job and they've done theirs — well, you ought to go back and help other people have the same experience you do."

This story was featured in the spring 2019 issue of Script magazine. To read past issues of the magazine, visit the Script magazine archive.

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