Headshots of U N E past and present School of Pharmacy Deans

From left to right: John F. Cormier, Founding Dean (2007–2009); Douglas H. Kay, Dean (2009–2010); Gayle A. Brazeau, Dean (2010–2017); Karen L. Houseknecht, Interim Dean (2017–2018); Robert L. McCarthy, Dean (2018–2022); Emily K. Dornblaser, Interim Dean (2022–2023).

The early history of the College of Pharmacy at the University of New England can be traced back to 1998, when a series of events intersected to begin a stepwise progression toward filling an educational void that had existed for decades in Maine.

In August 1998, Douglas H. Kay, Ph.D., a Mainer by birth, retired as Dean of the School of Pharmacy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. At that time, there was a shortage of pharmacists across the nation and in Maine, which had no college of pharmacy of its own. Representatives from Hannaford and Rite Aid met informally with UNE officials to discuss the shortage of pharmacists in Maine and the possibility of establishing a college of pharmacy at UNE. In November 1998, Dr. Kay was invited by UNE President Sandra Featherman, Ph.D., to serve as a consultant to explore that possibility. A university feasibility study committee was created to work with Dr. Kay, and in January 1999 it submitted to UNE officials a formal recommendation for a college of pharmacy. The recommendation was made with the understanding that significant funds would be needed to establish a college, and the project was subsequently set aside for several years.

With the inauguration of a new president, Danielle N. Ripich, Ph.D., in July 2006, UNE embarked on a path of unprecedented growth. That summer, President Ripich contacted Dr. John F. Cormier, former dean of pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina, to request that he re-evaluate the 1999 pharmacy feasibility study. Dr. Cormier enlisted Dr. Kay to serve on his team to determine the likely success of a pharmacy program, including its proposed location, faculty and staffing needs, scientific research focus, departmental structure, class size, and operating budget. The plan was presented in 2007 to the UNE Board of Trustees, which approved the establishment of UNE's fourth college, pending attainment of the funds required to launch it. A significant fundraising campaign was initiated and President Ripich invited Dr. Cormier to become the founding dean of the UNE College of Pharmacy.

With the support and encouragement of his wife, Louise, Dr. Cormier returned to Portland to begin the multifaceted process of securing initial accreditation, designing and constructing a building, selecting a faculty, and accepting students into the inaugural class. An associated task was the opportunity to work with the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to establish a pre-pharmacy program on the Biddeford Campus. As had become his practice, Founding Dean Cormier invited Dr. Kay to serve as executive associate dean and, once again, this team went to work.

The outpouring of support from pharmacy practitioners across the state of Maine was as energizing as it was overwhelming. Likewise, offers of support and collaboration poured in from a number of state colleges and universities and freestanding research facilities throughout the state. A lead gift of $1 million from the Hannaford Charitable Foundation and a $4 million grant from the Maine Technology Institute, in addition to many other generous donations, provided the substantial financial foundation for the UNE College of Pharmacy.

By the summer of 2009, with all of the components securely in place and after three years of commuting between Charleston and Portland, the time was right for Dr. Cormier to return to his home in South Carolina. With much discussion and careful planning, Dr. Cormier relinquished his role as dean in August 2009. His colleague, Dr. Kay, was appointed dean of the College while a national search for a permanent dean was launched. The inaugural class of students was welcomed to the College in September 2009 and on October 1, 2009 the formal dedication of the UNE College of Pharmacy was held outside the front entrance of the LEED-certified building on UNE's Portland Campus.

During Dr. Kay's administration, the faculty continued to grow and the College attained the next level of accreditation, Candidate Status, by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). As the result of the national search, Gayle A. Brazeau, Ph.D., was selected as the next Dean of the College to begin her tenure in October 2010. Likewise, under Dean Brazeau's leadership, continued growth of faculty and staff was critical to support coursework and student life in years 2 through 4 of the curriculum.

In addition, the College also became the first program in Northern New England to receive accreditation by the ACPE as a provider of continuing pharmacy education. It was also during this period that the ACPE annually reviewed the College's progress and continued its accreditation status. Shortly after the graduation of the inaugural class, the ACPE reviewed the first four years of the program and awarded the College with Full Accreditation in the spring of 2013.

Many individuals and companies, far too numerous to name here, are responsible for the successful growth and development of UNE's College of Pharmacy. The three deans want to express their heartfelt gratitude to any and all who have made this program possible. We especially want to recognize the graduates of our inaugural class, who worked diligently over four years and are now a proud part of the lasting legacy of the UNE College of Pharmacy. You and this College have a bright future and no doubt will continue to bring national and international recognition to the College in the years to come.