Large is one of several SOP alums to celebrate their 60th reunion this year
At age 82 – and looking forward to his 60th college reunion in April – Bruce Large (B.S.’57) isn’t letting any grass grow under his feet. As March begins, he has just returned home to Johnson City, Tenn., from the Virginia Pharmacists Association 2017 Midyear Meeting in Roanoke.
He has caught up with a few of his classmates, some of whom he expects to see in Richmond Reunion Weekend April 7-9. “I don’t have a feel for how many are coming,” he says. “We only had 65 in the class, starting out.”
Among the familiar class of ’57 faces Large hopes to see at reunion are Bobby Edwards, Frank Grossman and John Butler. Interestingly, he notes, Butler was one of SOP Dean Joseph DiPiro’s professors at University of Kentucky.
Large will be taking time out of his busy schedule – which includes teaching the history of pharmacy at East Tennessee State University’s Gatton College of Pharmacy and developing an IV program to train students in sterile techniques – to visit with his classmates.
He has good memories of his four years at the MCV School of Pharmacy. “My freshman year,” he says, “R. Blackwell Smith taught [and was dean of the school]. Then he replaced Dr. Sanger as president of MCV.” William T. Sanger was president of the Medical College of Virginia from 1925 to 1956, while Smith held the position from 1956 to 1968.
Students now don’t believe it, Large says, “But we went to school 9 to 5 Monday through Friday and 9 to 1 on Saturday!” He remembers chemistry being taught by Frank Pitts and biology by Roscoe Hughes.
The class of ’57 included several young women. “We also had freshman nurses in class,” laughs Large. “The pharmacy students would go to class early to watch the nursing students come in.
“It made it easier to find a date!”
The class of ’57 also had a number of Korean War veterans, which meant they arrived as older students. One of those Korean vets was William S. Cooper, the only African-American student in the class. “We never thought of him as any different than any of us,” Large says. “He never pushed the race factor; he was just one of us.”
Unfortunately, the race factor reared its head on a senior class trip “up north.” The entire class, as well as several spouses and Dean Warren Weaver, had taken a train to tour Eli Lilly in Indianapolis and then to Abbott Laboratories in Chicago.
“Bill and his wife [LaVerne] were with us,” Large says. “We went to a fancy restaurant, and they said they couldn’t serve the Coopers. Dean Weaver said, ‘Serve all of us or none of us.’
“So we went somewhere else.”Large also remembers the inauguration of R. Blackwell Smith, for whom the School of Pharmacy’s Smith Building was later named. Each class had representatives who attended the inauguration.
“We graduated with [Warren] Weaver as dean and Smith as president,” Large says. In fact, both their names grace his diploma.
Following graduation, Large went to work for Acme Drug Co., which his grandfather had opened in 1922 in Appalachia, Va. After the family sold the pharmacy in 1979, Large became a hospital pharmacist with the VA.
Connections with his alma mater continued. For example, Large served as secretary of the board for Lonesome Pine Hospital, a new facility being built in Big Stone Gap, Va. “We hired Dr. Sanger’s consulting firm to design our new hospital to meet the criteria to obtain Hill-Burton Funds.”
Now that he is retired, Large is able to indulge his interest in the history of pharmacy. He has researched pharmacy history beginning in Europe and then moving to the United States. He offers a series of talks about how pharmacists practiced in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, which are made all the more lively by his memorabilia.
When the family pharmacy closed, Large had his grandfather’s original soda fountain moved into his rec room. And when he relocated to Cornerstone Village South, a retirement community, he was allowed to bring the soda fountain with him lock, stock and barrel. He calls it Bruce’s Ice Cream Parlor at Cornerstone South.
“I teach [pharmacy] students how to make ice cream sundaes!” [Movie trivia time: You can see Bruce’s Ice Cream Parlor in the 2014 feature film “Big Stone Gap” extras. “There is a real close-up view of Ashley Judd,” he says. “I’m sitting behind her and I’m a white blur, but I can see it’s me on my big-screen TV.”]
As if Large doesn’t have enough on his plate, he’s taking a photography class. Hopefully, he’ll bring his camera to the class of ’57 luncheon scheduled 1-3 p.m. April 7 at the Tobacco Company Restaurant in Richmond’s Shockoe Slip. Haven’t registered yet? Click here. (If you are on Facebook, check out Large’s Facebook page to see some of his photography; if you can’t access, please submit a friend request.)
Because Bill Cooper was the first African-American student to graduate from the School of Pharmacy – and because of his commitment to breaking down barriers – a pharmacy scholarship for students of color was created in his name in 1987. About 20 years later, the Class of ’57 went the next step, creating a permanent endowment for the William S. Cooper Scholarship Fund. Cooper died in 2009. To learn more about scholarships for School of Pharmacy students, click here.