URI College of Pharmacy to induct second Hall of Fame class

Four inductees will be honored during ceremony May 13

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 6, 2022 — The University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy will induct four luminaries of the pharmaceutical profession into the College’s Hall of Fame during a ceremony next week.

Inductees include the inaugural dean of the College, Heber W. Youngken, Jr.; former Associate Dean Norma Owens, who retired from the College in 2021; former Assistant Dean Lois Vars; and former pharmacy Professor Christopher Rhodes. They will be inducted during a ceremony Friday, May 13, 6-8 p.m., in the lobby of Avedisian Hall on the Kingston Campus.

The four will join the first Hall of Fame Class, inducted in 2019, which includes Norman A. Campbell, Joan Lausier, Leonard Worthen and Yuzuru Shimizu. The plaques honoring all inductees are displayed on the first floor of Avedisian Hall.

“All of our inductees have had an enormous effect not just on the URI College of Pharmacy, but on pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences as a whole,” said URI College of Pharmacy Dean Paul Larrat. “Their selfless commitment to the profession and to educating multiple generations of pharmaceutical scientists and practitioners has made a lasting impact on the entire health care community. I can think of no greater group of pharmaceutical professionals to add to our illustrious Hall of Fame.”

The ceremony will include the induction, along with comments from the recipients or their families. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and a cash bar will be available. Tickets for the May 13 ceremony are available here. A $20 donation is requested.

The 2022 URI College Hall of Fame inductees are:

Dr. Norma Owens:

Dr. Norma Owens graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Pharmacy in 1977, followed by a Pharm.D. from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1979. She completed a research fellowship at Hartford Hospital from 1979-1982 before starting her distinguished career at the University of Rhode Island as a faculty member, Department Chair and Associate Dean.

A Fellow of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Dr. Owens is   recognized nationally in the field of geriatric pharmacotherapy. She was honored for her leadership in promoting patient-centered care within Rhode Island nursing homes.  Her leadership was equally impactful in the College of Pharmacy through academic program development, faculty mentoring and student engagement. 

Dr. Christopher T. Rhodes:

“A native of Great Britain, Dr. Rhodes earned his B.Pharm. with honors and Ph.D. degrees from the Chelsea School of Pharmacy at the University of London. He was an internationally recognized expert in the formulation and analysis of drug products and devices and the clinical and regulatory aspects of their use. Rhodes served the College in many capacities, including Chair of the Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences department.

He was a prolific author of nearly 300 publications, editor of several pharmaceutical journals, and a sought-after scientific expert. Federal partners included the U.S. Pharmacopeia and the Food and Drug Administration. He was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. During his tenure at URI, Rhodes had an enduring impact on the career trajectories of dozens of pharmaceutics graduates.”

Lois Vars

Dean Lois Vars earned a degree in mathematics and taught high school math prior to earning her B.S. in pharmacy from URI in 1962. She worked at her family’s Vars Brothers pharmacy in Westerly until inaugural Dean Youngken recruited her in 1974 to establish a highly regarded pharmacy externship program. Given her educational background, Dean Vars was then appointed to the newly created position of Assistant Dean for student progress where she remained until her 1994 retirement. Dean Vars was well-known for her high expectations of pharmacy students, instilling a sense of professionalism they would bring to their chosen careers and as representatives of the University.

In addition to shaping a generation of students, Dean Vars’ commitment to excellence extended beyond the College through her service as a trustee for several education and healthcare organizations.

Dr. Heber W. Youngken, Jr.:

Dr. Youngken followed in his father’s footsteps with a faculty and research career in the field of pharmacognosy. After establishing himself as a leader in the field, he expanded his interests to academic administration roles.

In 1957, he was recruited to establish the URI College of Pharmacy on the Kingston Campus.  His strong influence was evident in every faculty member he selected and in the creation and establishment of an innovative curriculum. Applying his lobbying skills, he successfully raised funding for a modern building to complement his bold vision.

In addition to the deanship, Dr. Youngken served for decades as Provost for Health Science Affairs, and his accomplishments created a bedrock foundation for URI’s College of Pharmacy today. The Youngken Medicinal Garden is a testament to his lasting impact on the University.