Dean Hager and an Era of Expansion
The School’s fifth dean grew the program, expanded research and, as it turns out, saved a life
Story by Zach Read | Published December 12, 2022
George P. Hager, the fifth dean of the UNC School of Pharmacy, assumed leadership responsibilities in January, 1966. When he arrived in Chapel Hill, the School hadn’t yet adopted important trends in pharmaceutical education. But Hager brought with him a wide range of experiences that promised to help guide the school’s growth. He’d been president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, spent nine years as dean of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota, received advanced degrees, including his doctorate in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, held a postdoctoral position in biochemistry at Northwestern University, and worked in the pharmaceutical industry at Eli Lilly and Smith Kline & French Laboratories.
These experiences made him the perfect fit for a school that wanted to build a national reputation while increasing its impact across the state of North Carolina. During his tenure, Hager committed to bringing in more faculty, staff, and students, creating more educational and clinical opportunities for students, and addressing the shortage of practicing pharmacists in the state.
And he helped achieve these goals. While he was dean, student enrollment and faculty and staff size increased. The curriculum expanded, higher degrees were offered, and a research program took shape. Students received clinical training opportunities in North Carolina hospitals and emerging Area Health Education Centers. More pharmacists who trained at the school joined the state’s pipeline of pharmacy professionals. Under Hager’s leadership, the UNC School of Pharmacy was on its way to becoming a national leader.
In addition to his impact on the school’s growth and reputation, Hager also made an impression on his students—and a difference in their lives. According to Jim Minor, Class of 1970, Hager took great interest in his students individually and collectively. He encouraged them to be mindful of the impact they could have on the health and well-being of the communities in which they lived and worked after graduation.
“He interacted with us and had an open-door policy,” Minor recalls. “He was always very personable and seemed genuinely interested in how we liked the program and what we thought could be done to make it better.”
Minor also considers Hager responsible for saving his life. When Hager learned that Minor would likely be heading to Vietnam as a draftee, he told Minor about the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), a uniformed service that promoted and protected the health and well-being of the nation’s public.
At the time, the USPHS had been expanding to include more healthcare professionals from different disciplines. Minor had the academic achievements and overall credentials to apply for the program. He applied and received one of 16 pharmacy residency positions available in the highly competitive program. Two weeks after graduation he began service at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts. His acceptance led to 26 years of service in the USPHS, the last 15 which he worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
“I know many friends who lost their lives in Vietnam,” Minor shares. “I was prepared to serve and would have gone had I not known about this opportunity thanks to Dean Hager. I may not be alive today if it weren’t for him. I’m just so grateful for the life I’ve had and I owe it all to him.”