Donors create endowed chair to advance drug discovery in College of Pharmacy

April 23, 2024
Maryann and Larry Kennedy

Maryann Kennedy, BS Pharm ’78, and her husband Larry Kennedy unequivocally model legendary Buckeye Woody Hayes’ tagline to “pay forward”, and the impact that they continue to have on the college is significant – to say the least. 

The Kennedys know how pharmaceutical research can affect patients’ lives as both are former pharmaceutical industry professionals and cancer survivors. And as the recipient of a $400 scholarship while attending Ohio State, Maryann knows what student support can mean for families’ access to education. 

These experiences, along with witnessing the impact of their giving over the years, have inspired the Kennedys to build a legacy of philanthropy at the College of Pharmacy, most recently by committing to the establishment of an endowed chair—through an estate gift. Once realized, the Maryann Z. and Larry Kennedy Chair in Drug Discovery will be the college’s third endowed chair, following The Jack L. Beal Chair in Medicinal Chemistry And Pharmacognosy and The Sylvan G. Frank Chair in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery Systems. 

Driven by their desire to make an immediate impact, the Kennedys are building upon past gifts to create this position. They are actively contributing to advancing drug discovery in the college today as they build toward creating endowed positions. 

Maryann and Larry with Dr. Peterson and his student“We have an endowed drug discovery fund that we contribute to annually,” they explained. “It accrues interest that can be drawn from and used to fund early research needs. That fund is currently being used to support Dr. Blake Peterson and his students, specifically in breast cancer research. As we add to the fund, it will become an endowed professorship by 2026 and then eventually an endowed chair.” 

Endowed positions are one of the highest honors that the university and colleges can bestow upon faculty. Given to faculty who have achieved great distinction, endowed positions universally acknowledge research and scholarship of the highest caliber and signify the broad impact of the individual’s work. Endowments also generate financial support to supplement salaries, seed research and scholarly work and support graduate students.

Deanna headshot

“Endowed positions are universally understood in academia as one of the most prestigious recruiting and retention tools available to us. Great faculty are at the heart of any successful program, attracting students who want to study under some of the most renowned researchers in pharmaceutical sciences. These positions have a direct impact in the college’s ability to improve health outcomes.” 

Deanna Kroetz, PhD, BS Pharm
Dean of the College of Pharmacy

The Kennedys’ planned estate gift is a strategic catalyst, paving the way for educational excellence and research innovation in three critical areas within the College of Pharmacy:

1 Recruitment and retention

The endowed chair stands as a beacon of commitment toward retaining and attracting top-tier faculty, further elevating the college's esteemed academic environment.

2 Research funding

Acknowledging the hurdles in securing early-stage research grants, the Kennedys understand that initial funding can propel groundbreaking investigations, growing into larger-scale endeavors.

3 Student exposure

Providing students with the opportunity to engage with eminent faculty and cutting-edge research broadens their perspective and understanding of the pharmaceutical field.

"It really cascades out and it keeps getting bigger," the Kennedys said, likening philanthropy to the ripples formed by a pebble cast into the water. “But these endowed positions are like throwing a boulder, allowing [donors] to make the ripple effect you want faster.”

The college currently has four endowed positions, two chairs and two professorships: 

  1. The Charles H. Kimberly Professorship in Pharmacy, held by Kari Hoyt, PhD, professor in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology
  2. The Jack L. Beal Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, held by A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, professor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy
  3. The Merrell Dow Professorship in Pharmaceutical Administration, held by Marcia Worley, PhD, RPh, professor and chair in the Division of Outcomes and Translational Sciences
  4. The Sylvan G. Frank Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery Systems, held by Peixuan Guo, PhD, professor in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology

In addition to the positions in the College of Pharmacy, two college faculty members are supported by endowed chair positions from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center: 

  1. The Gertrude Parker Heer Chair in Cancer Research, held by Sharyn Baker, PharmD, PhD, professor and chair in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology
  2. The John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research, held by Blake Peterson, PhD, professor and chair in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy 

The Kennedys’ investment in education and research ensures that the ripple effect they have set in motion extends far into the future, influencing countless students and professionals along the way.

“We don’t see philanthropy as gifts, we truly see it as investments,” Maryann said. “It's nice to know we're leaving a legacy – that the money is going to be put to good use and it's going to be there in perpetuity. We see the value these investments can bring today and in the future.”

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