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'Nothing short of miraculous': Bob Blouin retires after 20 years at UNC

Robert Blouin served as the Dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy for 20 years. Photo Courtesy of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

After two decades serving the University, former dean of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy Bob Blouin has retired.

 As dean, Blouin transformed the school from a “middle-of-the-pack” institute regarding rankings and grant support to the No. 1 School of Pharmacy in the country for education, research and administration, Paul Watkins, pharmacy school professor, said.

Blouin’s 14-year deanship, which spanned from 2003 to 2017, was followed by his time as UNC’s provost and executive vice chancellor from 2017 to 2022. In August 2022, Blouin returned to his position as the Vaughn and Nancy Bryson Distinguished Professor in the school’s pharmacotherapy and experimental therapeutics division for his final year at UNC, which ended Oct. 31.

By dedicating himself to excellence in research, the recruitment of experts and modernizing the curriculum, Blouin made the school one of the best in the country, Watkins said.

Blouin encouraged a flipped classroom approach, incorporated remote and video learning and oversaw Fred Eshelman’s $100 million donation to the school in 2014

“What he did when he came to the School of Pharmacy is nothing short of miraculous,” Watkins said.

With an ambitious agenda of attracting the best staff and students to the school, Blouin immediately set out to continue fostering the unique collaborative environment that originally brought him to UNC, Blouin said.

“Probably the thing that I’m most proud of is the fact that we were able to, over a period of almost 15 years, recruit incredible talent to the school and to the University,” Blouin said.

Blouin’s relentless pursuit of excellence, visionary leadership and hard work followed him throughout his various roles, Kim Brouwer, pharmacy school professor and associate dean for research and graduate education, said.

Brouwer also said that she worked with Blouin when the two were both students at the University of Kentucky, and that she later worked with him as faculty members at UNC.

Blouin developed a structure of self-evaluation and support for faculty members, which allowed them to improve teaching skills, plan for their futures and express their needs, Watkins said. He also said this administrative structure will help the school continue into excellence, despite Blouin’s retirement.

“He was always a very strong advocate for resources and support and encouragement as part of the time that students spend at Carolina — that they learn about scholarship and research in their various disciplines,” Brouwer said.

During his time as both dean and provost, Blouin held monthly “fireside chats” with 15 to 30 students, giving them a space to discuss certain issues, policy and curriculum changes, Blouin said.

“Any time that I met with Dean Blouin, he always had exceptionally thoughtful and insightful questions or guidance or mentorship,” Jackie Zeeman, associate professor and director of the pharmacy school’s Office of Organizational Effectiveness, Planning and Assessment, said.

Zeeman said she came to UNC in 2010 as a graduate student in the school and worked closely with Blouin through her role as student senate president and her involvement on student committees during the school’s curricular changes.

“He just understood people," David Steeb, former pharmacy school student and founding dean of the College of Global Population Health at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, said. "He had a knack for knowing what’s going on in peoples’ lives both professionally and also outside of the building, personally, and he cared about that."

He also said he and Blouin embarked on an 18-month journey during Steeb’s first year at the school to establish a dual degree pathway, which allows students to attain a master's of business administration and doctorate of pharmacy within the school. Blouin was a mentor for him, Steeb said.

“We need students who are leaders and who can use their critical thinking skills with all of their knowledge to address significant problems,” Blouin said. “I hope that people will hold onto that aspiration no matter how the world changes before us.”

Following his retirement from the University, Blouin has joined Med Aditus — a Raleigh-based pharmaceutical distribution company — as president and CEO.


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