A $50 million gift establishes six new endowed chairs, four new endowed professorships, 42 new endowed scholarships and equipment and facility upgrades.
Homecoming 2021 was an extra special event for the newly named R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy, with a $50 million gift presented by the college alumnus and entrepreneur. The gift, made through Coit’s family foundation, will solidify the University of Arizona Health Sciences’ place as a leader in pharmaceutical education, research and innovation.
The $50 million is the largest gift a Health Sciences college has received from an alumnus.
Coit made the announcement during a ceremony on Nov. 5 with University President Robert C. Robbins, MD, Foundation President John-Paul Roczniak, and Dean Rick Schnellmann, PhD.
“I feel great. It’s a little overwhelming to see my name up there,” Coit said following the ceremony. “I graduated 54 years ago in 1967. I always expected to be financially successful, and I think I’ve exceeded my own dreams, and thank goodness for the University of Arizona.” He founded Coit Financial Group in 1972, a private real estate investment group based in California, with holdings worth nearly $3 billion.
Coit’s gift establishes six new endowed chairs, four new endowed professorships and an endowment for 42 new scholarships for the college’s doctor of pharmacy and other doctoral programs. In addition to the endowed chairs in drug discovery, neurodegenerative diseases and toxicology, the gift also will fund strategic investments in research equipment and facility upgrades.
“It is my goal to see the College of Pharmacy take its place among the top three programs in the nation," Coit said. "With this gift, the college can recruit the best and brightest students and faculty, who will go on to change the face of health care around the world.”
“I’ve been smiling for a week,” said Dr. Schnellmann. “It is so rare an event to get one of the named colleges. We have 42 new scholarships to give out every year – that’s a big number, and we can put some funds behind it. Ken's leadership and philanthropic investments ensure our college will continue to grow, recruit and support the best students and faculty – attracting top people from around the world to make advances in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences," Schnellmann said.
While the gift was only recently announced, its impact can already be seen with the ongoing construction of an expanded wing of the college’s museum, which will be named the Coit Museum of Pharmacy and Health Sciences when it opens in the spring of 2022.
“It’s a great day to be a Wildcat,” said President Robbins. “This is such a special occasion. Ken is a supporter of the whole university, not only the College of Pharmacy, but athletics and the incredible strategic vision that we have for the university. And gifts like this will last in perpetuity because most of this money is for the endowment.”
This past summer the college was ranked No. 7 by the American Associations of the College of Pharmacy's list of colleges with the most National Institutes of Health grant funding. The college received more than $17.2 million from NIH agencies, including the National Institutes of Aging, National Institutes of General Medical Sciences, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and National Institute of Nursing Research, among others.
Coit, who is a member of the college's national advisory board, has supported the college for nearly 50 years, donating more than $68 million, including this new gift. He and his family previously founded the R. Ken Coit Endowed Chair to reward excellence in teaching, and he committed $2 million toward the expansion and renovation of the Skaggs Phamaceutical Sciences Center, completed in February 2020.
“It is my goal to see the College of Pharmacy take its place among the top three programs in the nation.”R. Ken Coit, Class of 1967
Coit became emotional when asked about his decision to make such a large gift. “It all goes back to my mother and her teaching me about philanthropy and helping others. What gets my emotions up is giving other people the opportunity to achieve the American dream. That’s what the scholarships are all about, giving those who have the work ethic and drive the opportunity to do it.”
While Coit graduated with a bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1967, he practiced pharmacy for only three years before beginning a career in investing and financial planning. Though he didn't spend a lot of time working in the pharmacy industry, he credits his professors with instilling in him the values that made him successful.
"I may not be a pharmacist now, but I learned a lot in pharmacy school that's still important to me," he said. "My professors demonstrated high ethical standards and integrity and taught me how to take care of patients. They really instilled that we were there to take care of others. I kept and transferred that value when I changed to investing."
“I couldn’t be more proud of what Ken has done, and it is just a great day in the history of the University of Arizona,” said President Robbins. “We have talked with Ken, and he is going to help us to inspire others to give back to the university. So, gifts like this really set a benchmark for others, to inspire others to give to the university as well. That is a big part of what today is about.”
Photo Gallery: Pharmacy Alumnus R. Ken Coit Donates $50 Million to College