Ken Duke Sails Into the PharmDawg Sunset

“Whenever alumni inquire about former professors and instructors, the name ‘Ken Duke’ almost always comes up,” said Lee Snelling, Director of the College’s Development and Alumni Relations Office. “It’s obvious that he is a beloved mentor and memory for many PharmDawgs.”

Why the admiration for this CoP veteran, who retired at the end of January? Perhaps, Dr. Phillip Greenspan, a PBS Associate Professor and close friend of Duke’s, answered this question best. “Ken has been my colleague for more than 30 years. During this time, no one has demonstrated a greater interest in the professional success of our students.”

And one of the best examples of Duke’s passion for student success? Our own Dean Kelly Smith ’92, ’93, who reflected, “Ken Duke was the first person I met at the UGA College of Pharmacy. I was a high school student exploring careers at UGA, and within minutes of meeting him, I knew that Pharmacy was the career for me, and that University of Georgia was the best place for me to get that training. That key moment in my career journey is one I will never forget. Thank you, Ken, for showing me and all of us the power of making connections with people, the importance of passion and good humor, and the sense of pride in UGA that I hope we will all continue to feel throughout our careers.”

Ken Duke, Assistant Professor at the Southeast Clinical Campus in Savannah, recently departed the College after almost 37 years of service. His affiliation with CoP goes back even farther, however. He is a proud alumnus, graduating in 1977 with a Registered Pharmacist Degree. Throughout his career, Duke, who specializes in nuclear medicine and regulatory issues in the field, served in numerous capacities at CoP.  Among them, he was a clinical instructor and a leader in the College’s recruitment and admission’s efforts on the Athens campus. Later, he was a founding faculty member for the extended campus in Savannah.  Before planning his retirement, he served a short time as Acting Assistant Dean in Savannah.

“Ken has been an amazing mentor to me throughout my pharmacy career,” reflected Dr. Brian Seagraves, an Academic Professional Associate and an instructor in the Clinical and Administrative Department. “He molded my mind as I began this journey many years ago as a student in the PharmD program at UGA. He was always there to offer advice and get me back on track when needed. Later, as I was going through the grueling nuclear pharmacist training, Ken was always available to direct and guide me. Finally, he has been an invaluable resource as I have traveled through this crazy but wonderful world of academia. He continues to be a source of strength and advice. I’ve always been impressed by his teaching style and his care and love for his students. I adopted many of his techniques, which I integrated into by own style of teaching. So, in a sense, Ken will continue shaping the minds of future pharmacists for years to come.”

Echoed his colleague in Savannah, Dr. Chris Bland, Clinical Professor, “Ken was the first faculty member to contact me when I accepted the job at our Savannah campus.  One of the best decisions in my career at UGA has been to seek Ken’s wisdom early and often when working through decisions, especially as it relates to students.  He brought a wealth of experience to our young, growing campus from his time in Athens in many different roles. Ken always kept our students at the forefront of our focus and decision making, which has been critical for our faculty, staff, and students in establishing a family atmosphere and excelling as a team. Our faculty hear from former students and residents on a weekly basis, and Ken is a big reason for these long-term relationships, which is one of the best parts of our jobs. I will miss him tremendously, but I am excited for his retirement. It’s well deserved and earned.”

In recognition of Duke’s passion for the water, a “Rowing to Retirement” retirement party was held Friday, January 28, at the Savannah extended campus.

Duke recently reflected on his time at the College of Pharmacy.

When did you start at the College? Why were you interested in joining the college?

I completed my Pharmacy education here in 1977. I was lucky enough to return and join the faculty in 1985…so it’s been a great, long run. I have had the honor and privilege of associating with thousands of students and alumni before and after their pharmacy school experiences.

What positions did you serve in at the College?  

I’ve always been associated with the Department of Pharmacy Practice, now a part of the Department of Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy.  My first duties were administrative under the Office of the Dean. I worked on several projects, but primarily, I was dedicated to statewide recruitment and the admission process. This was during a huge growth period for pharmacy as a career, and we had more than a thousand applicants for the relatively few seats in the B.S. entry level program. Later, this included the post-BS Pharmacy/PharmD program, followed by the “tracking” BS/PharmD, and the establishment of the “ALL”-PharmD program. Eventually, I returned to the classroom full-time, but I continued to be involved with student support. Finally, I was a part of the implementation of our extended campus model as a founding faculty member of our Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus in Savannah, which is affiliated with St. Joseph’s Candler Health System.

Who was a mentor or special person – faculty, staff, or student – for you at the College of Pharmacy?

First and foremost, my most influential mentor, leader, teacher, and friend is Dean Howard Ansel.  He hired me and created the position that helped shape my interests and abilities to support the College – and allowed me to make so many great and lasting connections with students who I’ve had the privilege of supporting. But I also had enormous support and mentorship by many people who were actually faculty when I attended as a student.  In no particular order, the LEGENDS of the UGA College of Pharmacy, such as Drs. Jim Stewart, Jim Cooper, Al Jowdy, Tony Cappomachia, Henry Cobb, Joe Bill Dickerson, Flynn Warren, Leon Longe, Tom Riegle, Bill Osborn, Gene Hammond, and Ms. Pat Thomas, not only welcomed me back as a faculty member but helped to guide, support, and encourage me along the way.  Without their mentorship, I would NOT have had the long, enjoyable, and successful career at the College.

What was your most indelible memory of the College?

Consistently, the most memorable experiences were probably the many years and countless trips to Indianapolis for the Lilly convention, in which faculty members, alumni who were Lilly representative, and I accompanied students on this great chance to learn about the pharmacy industry. It also was a reward and celebration of their pharmacy educational experiences.

What was your favorite part of the job?
The students, for sure. It was an honor to meet so many young people and their families and guide them to understand the vast opportunities that a career in pharmacy could offer them. Now, I’ve seen several children of some of those students follow in their footsteps and pursue pharmacy as well.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Well, there were always others who helped immeasurably in these areas, but I’m most proud of accomplishments which expanded and formalized our admission process to include personal interviews for the first time ever. Undoubtedly the work done by our student affairs office in recruitment and the personal nature of our interview process is a major foundation for the success of our professional program, and I was privileged to be a part in that process.

Additionally, to have had the opportunity to be a part of the establishment of our Savannah Campus, under the leadership and passionate efforts of Dr. Ray Maddox, has been an enjoyable and proud opportunity. To see that we have been able to follow the plan to have our target class-size, our physical presence on the Candler Hospital campus, and to participate in the relationships with these students in Savannah is a source of pride. To see their success and growth in attaining their goals and establish their practice specialties, especially those who pursued pharmacy education, is a source of great pride and encouragement for me.

What will you miss the most?

See above. The students and the development of life-long relationships.

What do you plan to do in retirement?  

My wife, Kandy, says I’ve been practicing retirement for a few years!  To have the opportunity to be on the coast of Georgia and be in and on the water as much as possible has assured me that I will have enough to do in retirement. I will still have a place in Athens and will divide time between there, Coastal Georgia, and Southwest Florida. I definitely plan to keep working some in the REAL WORLD.  I’m lucky to have some special contacts and friendships with former students and friends who own pharmacies, and I still love to practice in the community pharmacy setting. I will look forward to giving them a little “relief” for vacations, hobbies, and hopefully future UGA games and championships!

It’s been great, and I hope to stay in touch with many friends and still make new contacts with students who may be interested in pursuing a rewarding career in Pharmacy.  It’s been a great life for me.

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