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Generosity Comes Naturally

Surprise Gift from College of Pharmacy Alumnus Bolsters Carman A. Bliss Memorial Endowment

By Michelle G. McRuiz

Posted January 17, 2017

When College of Pharmacy (COP) alumnus William (Bill) Baker (BS ’68) was a junior, he and his wife, Gloria, ran out of money. Gloria urged Bill to apply for every scholarship he could find—“even if the scholarship was for women,” he recalled. And sure enough, when he applied for the Eva Ferone Memorial Scholarship for female students, he got it. No one else had applied.

William (Bill) and Gloria Baker

William (Bill) and Gloria Baker

After graduation, Bill earned an MS in radiopharmacy and completed a residency in nuclear pharmacy at other universities, then returned to UNM to help create a commercial radiopharmacy and academic program with Carman Bliss—the college’s visionary dean from 1970 to 1986—and faculty member Richard Keesee.

Envisioning a New Industry

Radiopharmacy specializes in radioactive pharmaceuticals and radioisotopes, which are used to diagnose, investigate and treat serious disease such as cancer. Keesee believed that pharmacy could and should standardize these radioisotopes so that patients could receive safe, standard doses of nuclear medicines.

Bliss and Keesee established not only the first licensed nuclear pharmacy in the world, but an entire field—one in which the college remains a national leader. For years, COP faculty trained radiopharmacists who went on to create similar programs throughout the country.

“Dr. Keesee and Dr. Bliss set up the academic part of the program,” said Bill, “and I set up the record-keeping and computerized everything. Their foresight started the nuclear pharmacy industry; then it just exploded. It was a fun time. That’s why I wanted to give back.”

Bill served as an assistant professor of radiopharmacy from 1971 to 1973, then went to the University of Utah to start its radiopharmacy program, and directed it until 1988.

A Surprise Gift

In 2005, the COP celebrated its 60th anniversary. Dean Emeritus Bliss died in an auto accident en route to that celebration, and his family established the Carman A. Bliss Memorial Endowment to support student and faculty development. When Bill finalized his gift in late 2015 during the college’s 70th anniversary year, he increased the endowment significantly.

“My sister, Allison, and I are deeply grateful to Bill for his contribution,” said Kevin Bliss, Carman’s son. “This addition will strengthen the endowment’s ability to provide ongoing financial support to the college, about which our father cared so much.”

Gloria, who passed away two years ago, and Bill both felt strongly about giving to the memorial fund. “We’ve been blessed in life, and wanted to help and encourage as many people as possible,” Bill said.

“The work of visionaries like Bill Baker, Richard Keesee and Carman Bliss has allowed the college to inherit a living legacy of scientific inquiry and innovative practice,” said College of Pharmacy Dean Lynda Welage. “Not only are we incredibly grateful to see that the Bliss Endowment is almost fully funded, but more importantly, we are forever grateful that Bill and his colleagues’ and classmates’ contributions of time, talent and treasure have brought our college to national recognition and gave us a reputation of excellence and innovation in improving patient care.”

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