They came from around the globe, just as they had done earlier in their lives to spend time with their mentor and friend.
Approximately 100 students and colleagues of the retiring pharmaceutics professor travelled across town and across the world in November to celebrate 37 years of service by the college's favorite Aussie, Dr. James McGinity. A reception in his honor was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in San Antonio. Highlight of the gathering was announcement of the Dr. James W. McGinity Graduate Endowment in Pharmaceutics. Many of those attending the event contributed to the endowment that currently stands at more than $160,000. Fundraising continues toward the $250,000 goal.
Bill Williams, chair of the college's Division of Pharmaceutics, served as an organizer for the event. He was one of the many former graduate students who studied under McGinity's supervision.
"As a former graduate student mentored by Jim and now a faculty member collaborating with Jim, I thank him for all the wisdom and encouragement that he has bestowed upon me," Williams said. "He has been a positive influence on me and my family. I wish him all the best in retirement."
For many of those attending the event, McGinity's encouragement played a critical role in their decision to pursue graduate studies.
"Dr. McGinity had a significant impact on my life," said Dr. Linda Felton, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of New Mexico. "While an undergraduate, he provided (me) an opportunity to work in his laboratory. Those experiences inspired me to pursue an advanced degree."
"After a few years of working as a pharmacist, Dr. McGinity again gave me a wonderful opportunity as a graduate student under his supervision," she continued. "He was an excellent role model, demonstrating patience, encouragement, and honor. My educational experiences provided the foundation for a great career in academia. I have traveled the world, met interesting people, and contributed to science. Words truly cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunities that Dr. McGinity provided to me."
Still another former student and attendee at the gathering described McGinity's influence as going beyond educational preparation and career to life lessons.
"Jim's children were young when I was there," said Dr. Mark Coffin, who directs research and development projects with GlaxoSmithKline. Despite a huge load of professional responsibilities, he made his top priorities clear - wife, Kitty and children, Rachel and Michael.
"Jim is a big believer in fitness and working hard. I appreciated his encouragement to regularly exercise so I took advantage of running around Town Lake several times a week while spending a lot of hours in the lab," he continued. "He was not a supporter of all nighters, and he talked to me about research being a marathon and not a sprint. 'Get your good 6-7 hours of sleep a night, Mate, and keep at it,' he would always say.
Finally, Coffin said his mentor encouraged his students to stay positive. "He was always looking for the best in people, and hoping for the best professionally despite whatever challenges he (McGinity) faced."
Born in Brisbane, Australia, McGinity earned his bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1967 from the University of Queensland in Brisbane before earning his Ph.D. in physical pharmacy from the University of Iowa in 1972.
He worked as a research investigator for E.R. Squibb and Songs and as an associate professor of pharmacy at Texas Southern University before joining the faculty of the UT Austin College of Pharmacy in August 1976.
McGinity delights in sharing that he considered himself somewhat of a master negotiator when he was able to secure promise of a new refrigerator as his start up package from then Dean James Doluisio. Later, he said, he learned that incoming researchers were negotiating start up packages costing thousands of dollars. "I was thrilled with a new refrigerator," he said laughing.
He rose through the academic ranks and served as assistant director of the Drug Dynamics Institute and as head of the Pharmaceutics Division. He taught both professional degree and graduate students with distinction, but it is in his research lab that he has excelled, both in mentoring students and in advancing scientific discoveries.
McGinity partnered with Feng Zhang, one of his graduate students, to develop a polymer technology that made oxycontin virtually tamper proof. The highly effective pain reliever previously had been pulled from the market due to its susceptibility to abuse. Their technology was originally unveiled in Zhang's 2000 dissertation for which UT honored him with the 2000 Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Division of Engineering and Materials Sciences. The reformulated oxycontin products, sold through licensee Purdue Pharma, is the only approved abused deterrent version of oxycodone on the market. The university continues to receive a percentage of revenues on the sale of the drug.
In addition to his work with graduate students in his research lab, McGinity taught both professional degree (Pharm.D.) students and graduate students in the classroom. Many of his former students recall his repertoire of McGinity isms including:
NOTE: You may honor Dr. McGinity and directly benefit the College of Pharmacy's internationally renowned pharmaceutics program by contributing to the Dr. James W. McGinity Graduate Endowment in Pharmaceutics by clicking here or with a check payable to "UT Austin College of Pharmacy" addressed to 2409 University Avenue, A1900 Austin, Texas 78712.
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