Seasons: The Magazine of Samford University

Alumni of the Year

Research Makes For Better Teaching, says Howard G. Clark
Canadian Pharmacy Leader Coutu Found Samford To His Liking

Research Makes For Better Teaching,
says Howard G. Clark

The best teachers are those that stay current with their discipline. And one of the best ways-perhaps the best way-to stay current is by performing research. So believes Dr. Howard G. Clark '47.

"If you teach the chemistry you learned in school, in about five years, you're teaching obsolete material," he said. "If you pursue research in the right way, you're keeping up with the latest developments."

Clark retired from the faculty of Duke University, where he successfully combined a career in teaching and research for almost three decades. He visited Samford in October for the opening of the new Sciencenter and to receive recognition as 2001 Alumnus of the Year.

Above: Francois Coutu '81, left, and Howard G. Clark '47 enjoy halftime recognition as 2001 Samford Alumni of the Year. Right: Clark visits with fellow alumni at Homecoming breakfast. "Howard Clark is proof positive of Samford's great tradition in the sciences," said University President Thomas E. Corts. "His career at Duke University demonstrates how an individual with a strong undergraduate experience and success at the graduate level uses imagination and background to become a high-profile scientist."

A professor of biomedical and biochemical engineering, Clark holds seven patents in scientific fields. He is a pioneer in research that led to the development of a stent that allows targeted drug delivery to a specific tissue in the body. The stent is used frequently following angioplasty surgery to hold open an artery while it heals.

Clark says he always tried to emulate teaching qualities he admired in one of his Samford professors, Dr. Harold Wilcox. "He was enthusiastic, dynamic, skeptical and intelligent, and wasn't offended if you questioned something he said," Clark recalled. "I have never taught a course without thinking about what Dr. Wilcox would have done."

In 1998, Clark established the Harold E. Wilcox Scholarship to assist Samford science students and to honor his former professor.

Clark, from Birmingham's Southside, enrolled at Samford at age 16. His chemistry teacher at Ramsay High School had recommended the school. "It was during World War II, and my parents weren't ready for me to leave home. Plus, I had a job in the chemistry department stock room. [It] was a good deal for me."

Clark's class of 1947 included only four chemistry majors, all four of whom went on to earn Ph.D. degrees. The other three were Leven Hazlegrove, W. D. Peeples and James Wood. Hazlegrove and Peeples served on the Samford faculty for many years, chairing the chemistry and mathematics departments, respectively. Clark earned his master's at the University of Notre Dame and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland.

The student body Clark remembers was far different from today's. The campus housed hundreds of Navy V-12 trainees when he entered. When the war ended, summer enrollment dropped to about 225.

"I knew each student on campus," he remembered, "but so did everybody else. It was tight-knit. Then the veterans came [on the GI Bill], and enrollment grew quickly."

While at Samford, Clark met his wife-to-be, Julia Evans, also a chemistry student. They have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

Canadian Pharmacy Leader Coutu Found Samford To His Liking

Francois Coutu '81 believes he is the first Samford graduate to speak with a "French Southern drawl." It's an accent he acquired after venturing south from his native Quebec to attend pharmacy school at Samford in the late 1970s.

Coutu was reared in Canada's French-speaking province, where his father started the Jean Coutu Group of pharmacies with a single drugstore in the 1960s. Coutu grew up working in the family business and determined he would be a pharmacist. Even as a youngster, he was impressed with the close relationship pharmacists have with their customers.

International Alumnus of the Year Francois Coutu, left, gets a preview of the new Sciencenter with help from McWhorter School of Pharmacy Dean Joe Dean.

Today, he heads the Coutu pharmacy group, which owns more than 500 pharmacies in Canada and New England. He also serves as vice president of the Canadian Association of Chain Drugstores.

Coutu already held a business degree from Canada's McGill University when he decided to study pharmacy in the U.S. He applied to several American pharmacy schools but liked Samford-and Birmingham-the best. McWhorter School of Pharmacy Dean Joe Dean, then pharmacy admissions director, met Coutu at the Birmingham airport on his first trip south.

"During that visit, I fell in love with the campus and the city," Coutu recalled at Homecoming. A 10-year member of McWhorter's advisory board, he was back on campus to be honored as Samford's first International Alumnus of the Year. "I still appreciate [Dean's] kinship and hospitality."

Coutu enjoyed his days at Samford, and actually encountered a version of what today's pharmacy students know as problem-based learning. Pharmacy professor Tony McBride was using similar techniques even then to help students know what they could expect in the profession.

"He had a good way of presenting learning situations in the classroom," Coutu said. "He would take a pharmacy problem and put it into a real-life situation. It was a great way to learn."

After earning his degree, Coutu ventured even further south, working as a pharmacy trainee in Hollywood, Fla. He also met his future wife in Florida, a Canadian named Claude. They have a son and two daughters.

Coutu returned to Canada in 1983 and moved into the operations and marketing end of the family enterprise. He served as vice president over several areas before becoming head of the company in 1990. Under his leadership, the group has become Canada's second largest drugstore chain.

Coutu is somewhat removed now from his over-the-counter days in the pharmacy. He runs the company from a Montreal office, concentrating on the business side and working hard to remain current in medication information. But one of his joys remains chatting with customers, and he makes that happen through regular visits to his pharmacies.

"I always enjoy what pharmacists do," he said. "It's rewarding to counsel people."

Coutu can counsel them in French or English. You can bet when it's in English, he's speaking with a French Southern drawl.

Winter 2001
Vol. 18, No. 4

Carnegie Names Chew

'Quantum Leap' in Science

Alumni of the Year

Remembering Ruhama

Gray Takes Charge

About Samford People

Campus News

Estate Planning


Class Notes


In Memoriam



©2002 Samford University
Maintained by University Relations. Last updated: April 4, 2002