OXFORD, Miss. – When he officially retires Sunday (June 30) from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi, Marvin C. Wilson will leave a legacy that includes not only topnotch academic and student affairs programs but also a scholarship endowment to benefit future Ole Miss pharmacy students.
The pharmacy school created a scholarship bearing Wilson’s name in April to honor his nearly 43 years of distinguished service, first as a pharmacology professor, then as chair of pharmacology and finally as associate dean for academic and student affairs. The school then sought gifts from his Ole Miss colleagues, family members and former students.
At Wilson’s recent campuswide retirement reception, his sons Dennis (BS 92, JD 95), a vice president of operations for Advanced Care Scripts in Orlando, and Mike (BA 94), an attorney with the Curtis Law Group in Dallas, presented their father with the Marvin C. Wilson Scholarship Endowment, which has received gifts and pledges totaling more than $26,000.
“We were able to accomplish this in only two months because of the love, admiration and respect so many people have for Marvin, including thousands of former students,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “When speaking with them, you only begin to understand the deep appreciation they have for him. Many speak about his integrity and character; others of how he challenged them in the classroom and made them eager to learn. He had an impact on each and every one of them.”
Allen also said that Wilson is a teacher, mentor, confidant and friend to countless members of the School of Pharmacy family, including himself.
“Establishing this scholarship in his name is the perfect way to honor him and his work, because it will enable future students to take advantage of the programs he helped build,” Allen said.
The announcement that the scholarship had surpassed the endowment level prompted one of several emotional moments for Wilson and dozens of guests gathered to celebrate his retirement. Among them were Becky, Wilson’s wife of 47 years, whose “nanny cakes” (brownies) have become part of the pharmacy school’s culture, the Wilsons’ daughters-in-law, Angela and Susan, and their four grandchildren.
“I’m the luckiest man alive,” he told the crowd. “I’m truly blessed. I have a wonderful family. I have been so blessed to work with the faculty, students and staff of the School of Pharmacy. It has been great. I wouldn’t trade my experiences at the University of Mississippi for anything.”
Another special moment was prompted by Frank Gammill, executive director of the Mississippi State Board of Pharmacy. Noting that five of six Mississippi pharmacists have taken Wilson’s challenging Pharmacology 564 class, Gammill presented Wilson with an honorary license to practice pharmacy.
The event’s most emotional moment was prompted by Carla Bennett, Wilson’s administrative assistant for 25 years. It was as if Bennett was speaking what others in the room were thinking when she told Wilson, “All these years, you thought you taught (only) a room full of students in Farley Hall, but it didn’t start or stop in that classroom. You have been such a wonderful influence in my life.”
That perception persisted as she continued, saying, “I have learned by your example and … your encouragement. You have helped make me who am I am today. You have been a rock in sinking sand, a calm in the midst of storms. We are friends and we are family. Your people are my people. The legacy you are leaving behind is far greater than you realize.”
Bennett gave Wilson an album filled with notes and comments from current and former students and a boomerang from herself and her office mates, Angela Ellis and Lindsey Griffith.
Like this boomerang, she told Wilson, “We’re tossing you out upon your request, but we will always welcome your return.”
Wilson will be returning to the pharmacy school in a part-time capacity after a 90-day break, Allen said. “It’s a testament to his love for our school and the people associated with it that he is so willing to continue working with us.”
Some of the reception’s lighter moments were provided by the Wilsons’ sons, both of whom grew up around the pharmacy school. Dennis told guests about feeding monkeys at the school’s primate research facility, which his dad helped found, participating in Pharmacy Olympics at Sardis Lake and taking his dad’s pharmacology course.
“Looking back, it was one of the best moments in my life,” he said.
Mike told guests that his association with the pharmacy school provided him with “one of the best interview stories I ever had.”
Whenever prospective employers asked, “‘What jobs have you held?’ I was able to say, ‘Growing marijuana,’” he said. “That resulted in some interesting discussions about my background and the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy.”
Because of their father’s love for teaching, his desire to see students succeed and his relationships with them, both sons have each pledged $5,000 to the Marvin C. Wilson Scholarship Endowment, which will provide emergency funds to professional pharmacy students confronted with unanticipated expenses. Alumni and friends can help build that scholarship fund with additional contributions.
Doing so “is a wonderful way to thank Marvin for his superb work, his kindness, humor and passion, but most of all his ever-present commitment to the School of Pharmacy,” Allen said.
Because federal support for need-based scholarships has declined over the past two years, Wilson said, “It has become critical that monies become available to assist our most in-need students. I am honored that my name is associated with such a funding mechanism. I thank all who have already contributed to the scholarship and, for the sake of our students, encourage others to consider such a donation or pledge.”
To make a gift, mail a check made payable to the University of Mississippi Foundation with the Wilson fund noted in the memo line to the University Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677; visit https://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/online.php?school=pharmacy; or contact Raina McClure at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-6967.
By Barbara Lago