Changing the Community through the Fisch College of Pharmacy

Research shows that pharmacies are common sources for important medical information.  Consider that for a moment.  We rely on our pharmacy for everything from flu shots to advice about drug interactions.  There is a wealth of knowledge stored behind that counter in the minds of professional pharmacists.

I am proud to say that, in just a few years, many of the pharmacists helping East Texas patients will have been educated right here in Tyler.

Earlier this year, after years of groundwork, the 83rd Texas Legislature approved a proposal to establish a self-sustaining college of pharmacy at The University of Texas at Tyler in collaboration with UT Health Northeast.  In August, the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted unanimously to make it official.

This is one of several early renderings of the first structure for the Fisch College of Pharmacy.

This is a conceptual rendering of the first building in the Fisch College of Pharmacy.

The new college will be named the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy, acknowledging a generous, multi-year gift for start-up operations and endowment from the Ben and Maytee Fisch Foundation.  We have already hired a founding dean, engaged architects to design its new home and begun preparations for the national accrediting process, which will begin in January.   With favorable winds, we expect to admit the first class of students to the Fisch College in 2015.

That new home will be much larger, nicer and more functional than originally planned, as a result of a large multi-year commitment for the building from the Brookshire Grocery Company (BGC).  Acknowledging their generous help, the building will be named for the company’s founder.  It will be known as  W. T. Brookshire Hall.

Establishing the Fisch College, aside from admitting lower division students for the first time in the fall of 1998, is the largest single change in the UT Tyler landscape in my 15 years as the University’s president.

For most of the past decade, we have been resolute in our goal to one day establish a college of pharmacy, and thus take advantage of—and add to—the medical focus of Tyler.  So, the UT Tyler family is especially delighted to be moving forward with such a significant project.

We are able to bring this new program to Tyler because of the support of so many of you.  Our elected officials, led by Senator Kevin Eltife, carried the day in the Legislature.  Major companies, led by Brookshire’s leaders Chairman Brad Brookshire and President Rick Rayford, provided significant support and brought other key parties to the table.  The same was true of our major hospital systems and the Tyler Chamber of Commerce, led by Tom Mullins.  And, it is very important to say that UT System—including former Chairman Gene Powell and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa—went far beyond basic support for establishing this new pharmacy college in East Texas.  All of these supporters were solid, and sometimes fierce, advocates.  We thank one and all.

This is the site plan for the new college. The facility will be located next to the Robert R. Muntz Library.

This is the site plan for the new college. The facility will be located next to the Robert R. Muntz Library.

With this project, we are bringing something to the community that will, in many important ways, positively affect UT Tyler and improve the quality of life in East Texas.

First, the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy is a partnership between UT Tyler and UT Health Northeast.  UT Tyler will work primarily on the instructional side, although its faculty and students will undertake research projects that contain a learning component.  UT Health Northeast will undertake major pharmaceutical research projects that involve sophisticated equipment and the special research capabilities of its faculty.  In addition to the treasured potential for developing new drugs, our pharmacy students will have the very valuable benefit of assisting the Tyler health science center in its research.

Secondly, the Fisch College will bring a good number of additional students to UT Tyler and will be a major economic driver for the region.  Fisch College will, by year four, have some 400 students in the program along with 40 new faculty and staff members. Those new students and new high-paying professional jobs will, in turn, bring other new jobs and new consumers into the local economy.

Furthermore, because of the addition of the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy, UT Tyler will experience a substantial increase in enrollment in pre-pharmacy science courses.  The University will be able to build further its already strong reputation in chemistry and biology.

Third, this new college of pharmacy will provide an opportunity for East Texas students to have local access to the education they need.  Only seven other Texas universities offer a pharmacy program, the closest one in Fort Worth.  When area students cannot find a seat in those institutions, they look elsewhere.  According to data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 571 Texas residents attended pharmacy school in a state other than Texas in 2012 and paid an average private or out-of-state tuition far exceeding $30,000 annually.

This is the conceptual view of Brookshire Hall as seen from across Harvey Lake.

This is the conceptual view of Brookshire Hall as seen from across Harvey Lake.

Our goal is to give deserving East Texas men and women who want a career in pharmacy the opportunity to prepare for it right here in East Texas.  There is a strong need for pharmacists in Tyler and communities across our region.  We are pleased to be able to help students find quality employment in such a high-demand, high-paying field.

At UT Tyler, we take pride in our commitment to innovation.  The Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy will be a strong example of that originality.  The pharmacy program will be self-sustaining.  That is, the college will operate without state funding, using only tuition and philanthropic gifts instead.  This outside-the-box approach will allow us to build a quality program without placing an additional burden on state taxpayers or current UT Tyler students in other academic programs.

One of the best parts of being involved in higher education is seeing the difference we make in the lives of students.  In a few years, when I am standing in front of a counter talking to a pharmacist with a UT Tyler lapel pin on his or her jacket, I will be proud to know that this community came together in a unique way to make the education of such successful individuals possible.


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