The faculty’s first female trailblazer, Mary Caldwell, PhD, joined the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy as a professor of pharmacology in the 1950s. Dr. Caldwell earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UArizona in 1918 and 1919, respectively. She was hired as a biology instructor at the university in 1919. She taught for many years but left to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, where in 1932 she was one of the first women in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in microbiology. She was named head of the UArizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences Department of Bacteriology (now the Department of Microbiology) at UArizona in 1937.
Dr. Caldwell and her husband, George Thornhill Caldwell, PhD, who was the head of the zoology department at UArizona, both retired from the university in 1956 after George was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away later that year. The following year, Dean Willis R. Brewer, PhD, convinced Dr. Caldwell to come out of retirement and join the College of Pharmacy as a research professor.
During her time at the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Caldwell researched cancer and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. She mentored and collaborated with many pharmacy students, including Metta Lou Henderson, PhD.
Dr. Henderson graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy in 1961 and was the first woman to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy from UArizona, which she did in 1966 and 1978, respectively. Dr. Henderson has been a research professor in the college since 2008, and she went on to document Dr. Caldwell’s legacy and influence on those she worked with.
“Mary forged a path for other women faculty members in the College of Pharmacy,” Dr. Henderson said. “She mentored everybody, and everyone loved her. I don't think I ever heard anybody say anything against her.”
Dr. Caldwell also mentored junior faculty, including a young Jack R. Cole, PhD, who served as dean from 1977 to 1990.
Dr. Caldwell remained at the college for decades, retiring in the 1980s. She passed away at the age of 98 in 1995, leaving behind a legacy that lives on in the College of Pharmacy.