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Dream Becomes Reality

Feik Family Funds New Pharmacy School

John FeikOnly two years ago, Incarnate Word’s new school of pharmacy was no more than a dream that appealed to many people in San Antonio, including John Feik, president of DFB Pharmaceuticals.

Feik thought that establishing a pharmacy school was a wonderful idea. And because of his professional background, and the fact that he is a member of the UIW Board of Trustees, it was almost a given that he would have a role in the development of a potential pharmacy program.

But Feik was concerned about the timing, as he was then deeply involved with his company’s major acquisitions plan. So he discussed his concerns with his wife, Rita, particularly about “taking on another endeavor of this magnitude.” And it was she who Feik credits for being “very instrumental in convincing me it was the right time.”

In the two years since, Feik has ended up sharing not just his professional expertise with Incarnate Word, but he recently made what UIW officials describe as “a substantial seven-figure gift” to the school of pharmacy that helped kick-off the school’s fund-raising campaign.

Funding the new school, Feik says, “was such a great opportunity to demonstrate our support and belief in education and to recognize the world from which we were blessed to make our careers and successes.” He adds that the new pharmacy school will be a “legacy for our family as well as the students who will enjoy the hallways and byways of such a fine school”.

How did Incarnate Word’s pharmacy program come so far, so fast? Focused teamwork, headed by UIW Provost Dr. Terry Dicianna, and critical and timely support from many people in the community such as Feik.

Filling a Need

At the suggestion of UIW President Dr. Louis J. Agnese Jr., Dicianna attended a workshop in Washington, D.C. two years ago on how to start a pharmacy school from the ground up. A pharmacy school had promise for Incarnate Word, but “I wanted to get a lot more data, so I began to research it,” Dicianna says.

Dicianna was excited about what he learned. For example, the demand for pharmacy graduates is huge. In fact, every year Texas must “import” pharmacists from other states to meet demand. But, Incarnate Word’s Board of Trustees wanted to make sure there would be a need in the future for its pharmacy graduates. James “Fully” Clingman, retired President and chief operating officer of H-E-B who is Chairman of the UIW Board of Trustees, explained to his fellow Trustees that H-E-B’s pharmacies alone need so many pharmacists that they could hire the entire first 10 graduating classes of 75 graduates a year. As you might expect, with a need like this, starting salaries are excellent, averaging around $85,000 upon graduation, with bilingual pharmacists earning much more.

With only four existing public schools of pharmacy, and one underway at Texas A&M-Kingsville, there is a high demand for a pharmacy education in Texas. While UIW’s pharmacy school will be the sixth in the state, it will be the only one at a private and faith-based institution, plus it will have the added distinction of being the only pharmacy school in the country to offer an optional Spanish-language certificate track.

Incarnate Word’s pharmacy program made sense for the students, but did it fit the university’s mission? Dicianna explains “that was probably one of the easier connections to make” because “the College (now university) was founded by Sisters who made their mark in San Antonio with health care (and) then began to develop education.” The pharmacy school combines health care and education while “filling our local needs with local students,” Dicianna says.

Incarnate Word’s pharmacy program was a winner, and the faculty and Board of Trustees approved it. But, this meant simply that planning could move to the next level. So far, Incarnate Word had internally funded all the planning. “To go to the next level, which the first step would be hiring the dean...required seed money,” Dicianna explains. “So we had the final level of (Board) approval in early December 2003, then we stopped.”

On Christmas Eve of last year, about two weeks after the Board’s approval, the George W. Brackenridge Foundation surprised everyone with a program development grant. The 80-year-old Foundation is known for its philanthropic work in education, particularly funding initiatives that result in new academic opportunities for groups historically underrepresented in higher education. “We had given them a presentation in early October,” Dicianna says, “but we did not expect such a rapid and generous response.”

Emily Thuss, who along with her father, Leroy G. Denman Jr. is a trustee of the San Antonio-based Brackenridge Foundation, says the grant is consistent with George W. Brackenridge’s vision.

“We felt very excited to be a part of the UIW pharmacy program,” Thuss says. “This was a unique opportunity to empower minority and other students to make a difference in the community.”

Seed money from the Brackenridge Foundation and the Feik family’s gift made the dream of a pharmacy school possible. Dicianna explains that although “operationally this program will be a success, and we will have a full class each and every year,…we can’t make enough to begin it on the proceeds of the school.”

Leaving a Legacy

Feik’s involvement with Incarnate Word precedes his support of the pharmacy program. Three of the Feik children attended Incarnate Word, and he has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2002. As a successful pharmaceuticals executive, he brings unique expertise to the table. In the last two years, Feik also acted as an informal adviser to Incarnate Word on its new, math, science and engineering complex because he sees a solid science curriculum “as your foundation if you are going to organically grow your student population” for the pharmacy program.

UIW President Dr. Louis J. Agnese, Jr. thanks Leroy G. Denman, and Denman's daughter, Emily Thuss of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation.

John and Rita Feik feel strongly about supporting Incarnate Word and its new pharmacy

program. Explains Feik, “We are very big, Rita and I, on education,” adding that they also like the “relationship to the Church.”

Dicianna, whom Feik describes as the “real workhorse” of the program, consulted Feik throughout the school’s development process. Dicianna says Feik was “very frank and candid, and he gave us some very helpful clues, and said … get more data on this, and so forth.” In addition, Feik helped select the pharmacy school’s founding dean, Dr. Arcelia Johnson-Fannin. She also served as the founding dean of the pharmacy program at Hampton University, a private, federally designated Historically Black College located in Hampton, VA.

For Johnson-Fannin, heading the UIW pharmacy school fulfills a goal she’s had for years - increasing pharmacy school enrollments so that they’ll reflect the country’s changing demographics, particularly increases in the Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American populations, which currently make-up about a third of the nation’s population. Now, at Incarnate Word, “I have the opportunity to bring to life something that our profession needs,” Johnson-Fannin says.

While classes in the School of Pharmacy won’t start until the fall of 2006, Incarnate Word welcomed its first pre-pharmacy students this fall. Freshman Jose Hernandez, who is in the pre-pharmacy track, says he used to be “more of a music person.” But after attending a summer program spotlighting careers in the medical field, he’s excited about becoming a pharmacist. “Pharmacy...caught my eye,” says Hernandez. “There’s such a demand.”

Rita Feik is thrilled that Incarnate Word’s new School of Pharmacy will be named after her husband. “I am very proud of John,” she says. “Our children are very proud of him and … who better than John Feik, I think, to leave this legacy to San Antonio because he is so well known in the pharmaceutical industry.”