John Grover Beard, North Carolina Pharmacy’s First Son

The legacy of the School’s second dean lives on in the building that bears his name

Story by Zach Read | Published October 25, 2022

In 1931, John Grover Beard succeeded Vernon Howell as the second dean of the School of Pharmacy at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Born in 1888 in Kernersville, North Carolina, Beard completed his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1909. He starred during his time in school, earning the Bradham Prize for the highest average among students. He received his license to practice pharmacy in 1908, before graduation.

After graduating, Beard joined the School of Pharmacy as an instructor, and in 1919 he became a full professor. Known as patient, understanding, and a friend to students, he championed the student experience. Beard supported and led efforts including the establishment of Kappa Psi, a medical and pharmaceutical fraternity, the Xi chapter of Rho Chi, an honorary pharmaceutical society for the top 20 percent of each pharmacy class, initiation of the charter membership of Phi Delta Chi, and the launch of the quarterly magazine, Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, for which he served as editor-in-chief. These efforts continue to be part of the fabric of life at the School of Pharmacy today.

Driven by commitments to the mission of the pharmaceutical educator and the school’s responsibility to improve care for North Carolinians, Beard pushed for high standards at the School of Pharmacy. He brought stature to the school by holding positions in national organizations, publishing regularly in journals, and advocating for legislation that improved the practice of pharmacy in North Carolina and the nation. A relationship builder, Beard routinely visited pharmacies around the state, talking with pharmacists about their experiences and needs and connecting with former students in the communities in which they served.

Before becoming dean, Beard helped Howell navigate challenges of low enrollment, a result of World War I, and inadequate facilities. During the 1918 influenza, he filled prescriptions for patients at the university and performed emergency duties required by military authorities. As dean from 1931 to 1946, he drew on these experiences as he managed the school through the Great Depression and World War II and charted its post-war future. In the 1940s, he wrote to university administrators about the need for facility upgrades, calling them outdated, unsafe, and inadequate.

In 1959, 13 years after his death, the university opened Beard Hall at the School of Pharmacy in recognition of his contributions to the school and university, as well as to the state of North Carolina—contributions such as lobbying for raising licensing standards, which improved the care provided by pharmacists in the state and helped contribute to the school’s stature as one of the top places in the nation to study pharmacy. Beard Hall has since been through a number of renovations and continues to be home to future pharmacists and pharmacy leaders.

In 1923, the Asheville Citizen had the foresight to write about Beard, “There is probably no better and more favorably known man in North Carolina pharmacy than John Grover Beard.  . . . he is North Carolina pharmacy’s first son.”