The Foundation of It All

Published on 16 November 2021

As John Grigus III, B.S. '66, approached the end of his senior year in high school, his father, a pipefitter by trade, offered him three choices — join the military, pick a trade or go to college. After years of working in his uncle's drugstore, Grigus chose college. In fact, he chose St. Louis College of Pharmacy, now a part of University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis (UHSP) — the only school he applied to and his uncle's alma mater.

At St. Louis College of Pharmacy at UHSP, Grigus would create memories and forge lifelong friendships with classmates Tom Chiotti, B.S. '66; Rich Brandstedt, B.S. '65; and Bill O'Donnell, B.S. '65. Together, the friends explored St. Louis, leaving no stone unturned.

"The whole city was our campus, and I don't think we missed any spots," Grigus said. "On most college campuses, you're confined to just a square or a few blocks, but we lived close to Gaslight Square [a historic entertainment district located in what is now known as the Central West End], coffee shops, restaurants — it was great.”

Grigus kept busy throughout his time at the college, balancing a part-time job, classes, fraternity duties, intramural sports and spending time with friends. Through it all, he developed a deep appreciation for the education he still feels privileged to have received.

"I had fantastic professors," Grigus said. "[Byron] Barnes [B.S. '51], [Leonard] Naeger [B.S. '63, M.S. '65], [Joe] Haberle, and [Frank L.] Mercer [Ph.G. '34, B.S. '35] all made sure we knew our stuff. When my son was considering pharmacy school, I called Haberle, and he told me, 'Make sure he gets his application in early, mail it to me, and I will personally deliver it to the dean.' He was just a tremendous guy."

After graduating from the college, Grigus moved back to Chicago where he practiced pharmacy for a few years and was encouraged by his brother-in-law to pursue a career in dentistry. While attending Loyola University, Grigus found his pharmacy background complimented the dentistry curriculum well and even gave him an advantage.

"Because I had worked for a few years before going back to school, I was able to put myself through my first year of dental school, and I continued to work part time helping local independent pharmacies," Grigus said. "My pharmacy education made me a better dentist. I would tell my friends that continued to practice pharmacy that I used my pharmacy education every day. I would always ask my patients what medications they were on, just to make sure we avoided any adverse effects. It was a simple question that helped ensure I provided my patients with the best care possible."

Grigus retired from his private practice in 2020. Only a handful of months into retirement, Grigus is enjoying spending more time with his family, meeting his college friends for lunch, and getting back to traveling, including visiting campus and catching a White Sox-Cardinals game with other alumni.

Even after a 42-year career in dentistry, Grigus credits his pharmacy education for his successful and fulfilling career as a dentist.

"Without pharmacy, I would not have the life I do now and neither would my family," Grigus said. "I am so thankful for my St. Louis College of Pharmacy education. Pharmacy is a great profession, and I continue to encourage young people and my grandkids looking at colleges and future career paths to consider pharmacy. There is so much you can do with a pharmacy education, whether that means getting your master's or going into medicine, or other careers in health care. My time at the college was foundational in my development as a person and a professional."

This story was first published in the fall 2021 issue of Script Magazine. To view past issues of Script, visit the Script Magazine archive.

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