Posted by William Nunnelley on 2009-03-10

Samford University dedicated its $27-million science building as William Self Propst Hall Tuesday, March 10, honoring a 1961 Samford graduate who became one of the nation's most successful pharmacists.

"William Self Propst has given us appropriate cause for celebration today, with one of the most significant gifts in the 167-year history of our institution," said Samford President Andrew Westmoreland.

"His gifts will endow the upkeep of this building in perpetuity, they will provide enrichment funds for the natural sciences and for pharmacy, and they will secure a measure of strength for the breadth of Samford University, now and in all the years ahead."

The 96,000-square foot building, known as the Sciencenter since its completion in 2001, is home to Samford biology, chemistry and physics programs. It also houses a 2,000-square foot medicinal plant conservatory, the Christenberry Planetarium and the Vulcan Materials Center for Environmental Stewardship and Education.

Propst began his pharmacy career in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., with one store after graduation, but initiated the concept of leased pharmacy operations in Kmart stores that eventually saw 1,278 pharmacies operating in the discount chain. He served as president of the Kmart pharmacy operations for 17 years.

Propst commended Samford on "its great curriculum and faculty and its Christian influence." He said he had worked to maintain a connection with the school and friends he made there.

"I would come back to Samford to interview students to serve as interns in the Kmart operation, and some of our best interns were from Samford," he said. "They had a better feel for what was needed because of their experience in visiting pharmacies."

Clark Watson, chairman of the Samford board of trustees, noted that the ceremony celebrated completion of a process begun when the building opened seven years ago, providing a state-of-the-art science facility.

"The one thing missing at the time was a patron who would ensure the ongoing maintenance of the building," said Watson. "That patron has been found . . . and we are here today to honor Samford alumnus William Self Propst with one of the highest honors a university can bestow--the naming of an academic building."

Watson noted that Propst came to Samford as a premedical student but became so interested in pharmacy that he dedicated his life to it.

The Samford graduate went to work at a Walgreen's store in Huntsville after earning his degree, and his managerial talents helped make it the number one store in the nation. "I could meet people and be helpful," he recalled earlier. "I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the business."

He opened his first store in 1964 and added four others in Huntsville before initiating the Kmart project. Later, he also founded and served as president of Qualitest Products, Inc., a wholesale drug products and equipment company.

Propst was named Samford's Alumnus of the Year in 1996.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.