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The soul of community

He will miss most the sense of community.

The daily encounters with faculty and staff to discuss college business, to share personal milestones, and to talk high school sports will be missed. And then there are the student interactions – leading classroom discussions, counseling through challenges, celebrating successes, and, again, measuring high school wins and losses. He will miss those moments.

Arlyn Kloesel, distinguished senior lecturer of pharmacy practice who Dean Lynn Crismon has called the soul of the college, retires in December after more than 30 years with the college. His departure will create a void that will be difficult to fill.

"Arlyn's greatest contribution is his ability to connect with people," said Dr. Jamie Barner, associate professor of pharmacy administration. "He uses his passion for football to connect with students."

Barner observes that Kloesel's first conversation with an entering student often includes learning the name of his or her hometown. He then proceeds to name the local high school as well as the team mascot, she recalls.

"This immediately breaks down barriers for students, and they feel a connection with him," she said. "Whenever I engage our alumni, it never fails that they ask about Arlyn. This is a testament that his genuine investment in others is valued and long lasting."

"There is a real sense of community spirit here," Kloesel said recently. "People outside the college may sense it or be vaguely aware of it, but there is nothing like actually experiencing it on a daily basis."

A native of Hallettsville, Kloesel earned his UT bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1962. He and his wife, Mary Carol, made their home on a tree-lined street in northeast Austin with other young families. They set about raising their two sons, Kevin and Scott, cheering them on through school projects and sports competitions.

Kloesel began his career as a staff pharmacist working for Walter Corrigan at Sommers Drug in Austin. He embraced his work putting in long but rewarding hours at the community pharmacy. He formed a life-long friendship with Corrigan and credits his former employer with opening the door for his appointment to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy by then Gov. Dolph Briscoe. It was a busy and rewarding time, and Kloesel admits that often Mary Carol attended their sons' school and athletic feats while he worked. At oldest son Kevin's 1980 high school graduation, Kloesel recalls turning to his wife and saying, "I don't even know this kid."

Kevin assured his father that he understood the long hours put in at work, but Kloesel said he made a decision that day to make a life change.

The next week, he contacted James Doluisio, the dean at the UT College of Pharmacy who earlier had invited Kloesel to visit about job opportunities within the college. Kloesel was ready to talk.

In July 1980, Kloesel joined the university, splitting his time between the College of Pharmacy and the Division of Continuing Education.

At the time, he was one of a very few college faculty members without a Pharm.D. or Ph.D. degree. In addition, he was venturing away from a profession he knew well, retail pharmacy, into the unknown of academia.

"I confess that I felt inadequate sometimes," he said.

Dr. Charles Walton, an assistant dean, and Manuel Lena, a young assistant to Dean Doluisio, became Kloesel's guiding lights and mentors.

"I know it's funny to call Manuel my mentor since I'm older than he is, but it was true," Kloesel said. "He showed me the ropes. The dean would ask me to do something, and if I didn't know how to do it, I would go to Manuel. I learned everything I had to know from Manuel those first few years."

"Jim Doluisio hit a number of grand slams as he built the UT College of Pharmacy into a nationally recognized pharmacy school," Lena said recently. "Hiring Arlyn Kloesel to join the college was one of them."

Lena praised Kloesel for his interactions with students, calling him the perfect coach, teacher, parent, friend and advocate. He also cited Kloesel's ability to bring together pharmacy practitioners and students for exchanges that enriched both groups.

"He connects with pharmacy students: he truly listens and cares about them individually. As a caring human, Arlyn excels," Lena said. "His leadership and outstanding moral character set an example for all to follow. He represents the very best that a UT pharmacist can become."

By his second year with the university, Kloesel had a full time appointed with the college. In 1981, he was named director of professional affairs.

"Sometimes you get lucky, and I certainly did when I made the decision to recruit nontraditional faculty members such as Arlyn," said Doluisio. "He along with others brought about a dramatic positive influence to the college and to the university."

Under Kloesel's leadership, the new professional development team worked to guide students toward thinking and acting as young professionals including attending state and national meetings, enhancing student professional organizations, and increasing students' experiences in professional settings.

Jennifer Ridings-Myhra, assistant dean for experiential and professional affairs, recalls the team's first meetings.

"There were just three of us – Arlyn, Angela Solis, and me," she said. "Together with Dean Doluisio we set the professional agenda, in terms of both student and faculty involvement, through practice courses and organizational representation. More than 20 years later, I am privileged to lead the group that has grown to approximately 12 faculty and staff members who are involved with student professional development."

"I am fortunate to have been a part of this group since its inception, and to have been mentored by Arlyn," she said.

"He models compassion, understanding and professionalism, and he nurtures the development of his students. He is, without a doubt, the most caring, effective, and compassionate mentor within the college," said Jim Wilson, head of the Division of Pharmacy Practice.

"As long as I've been here, I've never asked for a promotion," Kloesel said. "I assumed that if I was doing a good job, I would be promoted."

In 1986, he was named clinical assistant professor and associate head of clinical pharmacy. He was promoted to assistant dean/director of professional affairs in 1987, a position he held until 1994 when he retired from his administrative appointments and assumed a half-time academic position as senior lecturer. In 2007, he was among an inaugural group of senior lecturers to be selected for promotion to the newly created UT rank of distinguished senior lecturer.

His work has been celebrated with numerous awards and honors. He is the recipient of the Texas Exes Teaching Excellence Award (2006), the Gloria Niemeyer Francke Leadership Mentor Award from the American Pharmacists Association (1998), and the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Pharmacy Association (1995).

He is recipient of the college's William J. Sheffield Outstanding Alumnus Award (1985) and the Legend of Pharmacy Award (1992). In 1995, the pharmacy alumni association renamed their annual tribute to outstanding preceptor faculty as the Wm. Arlyn Kloesel Preceptor of the Year Award.

In August, his dedication to students was recognized when he was one of two pharmacy faculty members to receive the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award presented by the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

One of his greatest contributions to the college is the development of the first-year professional practice experience, the Care and Respect for the Elderly (CARE) Program.

The idea for the class, he says, goes back to a conversation he had with Lynn Crismon who approached him looking for a pharmacist to visit a retired pharmacist living in an assisted living facility. The gentleman had lost his wife and had few visitors. Kloesel decided to pay a visit himself.

Their first encounter took place shortly after the man had completed a dialysis treatment. It did not go well. After researching dialysis, Kloesel decided to visit again, this time prior to treatment when the patient might feel stronger. The visit went better, and the relationship truly flourished when they found a common interest in sports.

"I learned a lot in building this relationship," Kloesel recalled. His knowledge expanded regarding dialysis and how patients often feel before and after treatment. He also learned that common interests build bridges that can transcend generations.

"I began to think about matching students with patients to help them understand the aging process," Kloesel said. He presented the idea to Barner who agreed to collaborate with him in developing the course.

"Realizing that the aging Baby Boomers would create a tremendous surge in the elderly population, Arlyn had the forethought to develop a program designed to meet a critical need and to provide an excellent learning opportunity for pharmacy students as they prepare to serve this population," Barner said.

"Arlyn's drive and investment in this program is undeniable," she continued. "The CARE Program has many moving parts, and Arlyn made sure that they were all moving in sync. He made certain that the patient was at the center of everything, and he stressed to the students that they were to be compassionate and caring at all times."

One of the first challenges in creating the program was to find facilities that understood the value of student-patient interactions and that would permit students access to medical charts. After working for almost two years, Kloesel found The Summit at West Lake Hills in Austin. He then turned his attention to identifying the first students to participate in the pilot program.

"We polled that year's entering class seeking interest in the program," he said. "We hoped for 12 student volunteers. We got 91."

Eventually 35 students were selected who agreed to make six patient visits during the fall semester. In small discussion groups, students in the pilot program shared their experiences with classmates who voiced interest. Shortly after, the college moved to incorporate all students into the program. Today, the CARE Program is a hallmark of the first-year student experience.

Not all students enjoy the experiences gained through the program, but all benefit from participating, Kloesel said. Statistics indicate that 47 percent of all individuals age 85 years and older will develop Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.

"It is important for future pharmacists and future caregivers to know about the aging processes, including dementia," he said. "Patients turn to pharmacists for advice in what to look for in a care facility for their family members. Other patients may be exhibiting symptoms of dementia themselves that the pharmacist should be able to identify."

"Arlyn is one of the best and most admired teachers among a faculty of excellent teachers," said Dean Crismon. "He is the faculty member who students recognize as always being available when they have a need."

In May, his last P1 class organized a surprise celebration for him where they presented him with a cake, a plaque, and a book filled with photographs and well wishes from current and former students. Upon entering the room, Kloesel was met with a near capacity room filled with cheering students.

Dr. Linda Onunka, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, assumed teaching responsibilities for the CARE Program beginning this fall. Kloesel has spent the semester offering his assistance and support. As the start of his retirement looms, Kloesel said that he looks forward to devoting time for reading as well as some trips he and his wife plan to enjoy. They will travel by car, affording them an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the experience.

"This past year has been one of the more pleasurable years I've had at the college," Kloesel said. "Individuals who are excellent students academically as well as caring individuals surround me. I also am surrounded by exceptional pharmacy practice faculty members who are energetic and caring, and who demand excellence from students."

"When I joined the faculty in 1998, I was ecstatic that I would be working with Arlyn," Barner said.

"He has a way of knowing when things may not be quite right," she continued. "I usually try to hide from him during those times, but he manages to find me and instantly puts a smile on my face. After spending time with Arlyn, you always leave a better person."

He will be missed.

Last Reviewed: December 12, 2011

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