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    Ten pharmacists, two generations

    Drug Topics readers may recall that the intermittent series “Pathways through Pharmacy” gave rise fairly quickly to an unusual offshoot — accounts of whole clans populated primarily by pharmacists. Here’s the story of another such family group.

    My family and I have read with interest the articles written by those of our pharmacist colleagues who come from families with several pharmacists, and we would like to share the following with Drug Topics’ readers.

    To start with, I’m Walter Steven Pray, PhD, DPh. During my last years of high school in Broken Arrow, Okla., my parents and I began to discuss my future. My mother and father (Walter L. and Flossie W. Pray) urged me to focus on a profession that laid heavy emphasis on science and math, as I had done well in those subjects.

     My father was a World War II Marine who served in the Pacific Theater. In planning for my future, he carefully read the want ads in Tulsa newspapers, noticing the classified ads for pharmacists that seemed to be in the paper every day. Prospective employers offered monthly salaries as high as $1,000, a princely sum in 1966 and 1967.

    The Great Depression

    My parents thought pharmacy would be a suitable career for another important reason. They were children of the Great Depression.

    As a young boy, Dad was highly resourceful in his efforts to make some extra money. He was hired as a delivery boy for the pharmacy in his small Texas town, and part of his job was delivering medications to the townspeople — and to the local brothel. The ladies of the night were so glad to receive their medications for venereal diseases that they tipped him, sometimes as much as a dime.

    Dad recalled that, as the Depression deepened, the last two thriving businesses in town were his pharmacy and the brothel. He said to me, “Steven, when the next depression comes, you’ll always have a job as a pharmacist, because people will still need their medications.”

    It all sounded good to me, and I determined that my parents’ vision was right on the mark. But where would I go to college? My high school counselor recommended Southwestern State College (SWSC), in the little town of Weatherford, Okla., right on Route 66. Although it was 200 miles to the west, it was all interstate driving. He characterized SWSC as an excellent choice for two reasons: it was affordable and it had a first-rate, caring faculty who would prepare me well for the profession. The alumni he had spoken to were universally positive about their time there.

    Baby Boomer

    Since I was in the middle of the Baby Boom generation, college slots filled rapidly. Fortunately, I was accepted into SWSC as a freshman in 1967 and was blessed to have the financial support of my parents. They paid virtually every cost of my college education, so that I graduated owing only a paltry $3,000.

    My mother worked as a secretary at a Tulsa cemetery to supplement my father’s income. Without both our parents working, my sister and I might never have been able to attend college.

    My father said once, “There was never any question about it. We would have sent you to college no matter what it took. But there were times when we paid your tuition, and we didn't know if we would have money left to buy food for the rest of the month.”

    It was their insightful vision and incredible generosity that allowed our families to have better lives than the ones our parents had endured.

    W. Steven Pray, DPh, PhD
    Steven Pray is Bernhardt Professor in the College of Pharmacy, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, Oklahoma.


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    • KaraTindal
      What a wonderful article on one of my pharmacy school professors! Congratulations Dr. Pray!
    • Mrs. jgriffiths
      This is truly amazing and awesome. The pharmacy industry is expanding and constantly changing and I can just imagine all the pharmacy stories that are composed on a daily basis. This article would of been nice with a picture to show the professional look of the 10 Pharmacist within 2 generations.