UNM Alumna Supports the Advancement of Women in the Pharmacy Profession
Joy Donelson was barely in her teens when she got her first job in a West Texas drug store. She much preferred working back where the pharmacy was, away from the bustle of the soda fountain, and continued there through high school. Already an independent thinker, Donelson resolved to become a pharmacist, a profession largely closed to women in the 1940s.
Back then, a passenger train could get you from Lubbock, Texas to Albuquerque in a day. In 1945, UNM opened its College of Pharmacy (COP); in 1951 its third graduating class included 20 male World War II veterans-and Joy Donelson.
"Going to college I always had two or three jobs," she recalled, "and one was always in a pharmacy." The only woman on the COP faculty became her mentor, and they remained close friends for 65 years. "I came out of a little rural high school," Donelson said. "I was a quick learner, but I didn't have physics, or any math beyond algebra, so she tutored me."
Donelson went on to work in Santa Fe, where customers included Georgia O'Keeffe among other artists and writers. When she and her husband later moved to Anchorage, Alaska, she opened four pharmacies staffed exclusively by women. Active in national organizations, Donelson sought to narrow the gender gap.
"There would be 2,000 men and five women at a meeting," she stated, "so around 1970 I started sponsoring the 'Good Old Girls' dinner at the American Pharmacy Association. We started with eight, pretty soon we had 125, and we began to nominate women for leadership positions."
Donelson's pioneering feminist spirit and career success led her to create philanthropic vehicles at the COP. The Joy H. Donelson Leadership Award for Women Students in Pharmacy recognizes exceptional accomplishments, like those of recent graduate Jessica Lewis-Gonzalez, a pharmacy resident at UNM Hospital. "Joy is a kind and inspiring woman," she said. "Joining a list of previous award recipients whom I respect tremendously makes me more confident in continuing to develop and refine my leadership skills."
COP Dean Donald Godwin has known Donelson for almost two decades. "Joy has incredible passion for promoting women in pharmacy," he said, "and a drive and determination to make this college better. Many of her Leadership Award winners now hold prominent positions in state and national organizations."
A future bequest will establish the Joy H. Donelson Endowment for the Circle of Joy, designed to ease financial burdens for fourth-year students serving their clinical rotation in residence.
Although Donelson is in her 80s, her sense of mission is still strong. "Women now make up more than 50 percent of the people in the profession," she said, smiling, "so there should be more than 50 percent in leadership roles, too."
Story by Hilary Mayall Jetty