New Orleans Pharmacists
A story worthy of a museum
Pharmacy School at Xavier in the 1940s
courtesy of the Xavier University of Louisiana
It’s really a very flexible career,” Randall Schexnayder insists.
The Assistant Dean for Academic Support at Xavier University’s College of Pharmacy, Schexnayder keeps up his own license as a pharmacist and earns continuing education credits each year. “You can work in the military, for pharmaceutical companies, retail stores, hospitals – you name it,” he says.
While graduates travel widely, many are still in town. “Just go up to any pharmacy counter and ask when they finished at Xavier!” Schexnayder suggests.
Appropriately, a Catholic school is educating local pharmacists today, since the first New Orleanian of note to prepare remedies and dosages was an Ursuline nun.
Charlotte Hebert of Bayeux, France, Sister François Xavier, arrived at the Ursuline Convent here in 1732, and for the next 30 years was the nun in charge of the local hospital, according to Emily Clark’s 2007 book Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1724-1834. Sister Xavier’s remedies would have come from her herb garden, which was located at the nuns’ property at 1112 Chartres St. (You can still visit: the Old Ursuline Convent is open to visitors Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Dr. Conchetta White Fulton, chair of the Clinical Department at Xavier’s School of Pharmacy, believes women make good pharmacists “We are observant, and we’re going to make sure the patient understands the medication and does the right thing with the medication they’re on.”
“It’s a good career to have and raise a family,” she notes. Fulton explains that she had been recruited while a student at Xavier Prep. “A gentleman came from Xavier to recruit students – told us about different types of pharmacy. They talk about STEM today (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics – currently a focus of federal and state education policy). Well, that’s what we had!” Her first job out of school was at Broadmoor Drug Store, but she returned to Xavier University and an academic career.
Another high school student recruited to Xavier was Scott Beninato, now co-owner with pharmacy technician Terry Langlois of Castellon’s Pharmacy at 8232 Oak St. The original owner of the store was Vic Castellon, with Beninato and Langlois taking over in 2003. “It’s a very fulfilling job. I have never regretted a day getting into pharmacy – maybe not the paper work, but you’ve got to have fun with that, too,” Beninato says.
Xavier’s Pharmacy school opened in 1927, but the earliest organized local pharmacy school was the New Orleans College of Pharmacy, first organized in 1879 and by 1900 at the corner of Carondelet and Lafayette streets. Women were welcomed as students, and Eliza Rudolph was the first woman pharmacist licensed in Louisiana; in 1882, she was accepted into the state pharmaceutical association.
Loyola University acquired the New Orleans College of Pharmacy in 1913, and continued to enroll women students (even when they weren’t admitted as fulltime Loyola University liberal arts undergraduates until the ’50s.) Fond memories of Loyola’s pharmacy program are treasured by one of the faculty children.
“I was always around there, playing around in the laboratory where the pharmacy students compounded drugs, where they learned to make prescriptions,” Edward Ireland reminisces.
Although he’s now Professor Emeritus of Comprehensive Dentistry at the LSU Dental School, his father, Edward Ireland Sr., was a pharmacist, who after completing his training in his native Wisconsin, found his way to New Orleans and ultimately became Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Loyola University.
Ireland’s most adventurous times with his father involved the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, begun by a prior Loyola pharmacy dean.
Ireland’s father was an energetic collector. “Over the years he got fixtures, drug jars and huge counters when stores went out of business. ... The leech jar was a very coveted thing – my Dad was after that leech jar for a long time, and he was so excited when the pharmacist called and said he could have it. It’s down there now.”
In spite of the treasured artifacts, things were primitive when the museum first opened. “Downstairs there was only a pot bellied stove in the middle of the room, that’s how they kept the place warm. There was no heat upstairs at all.” The museum attracted attention.
The emergence of a pharmacy school at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe) and the opening up of Xavier’s pharmacy school to all races after the Civil Rights years, caused Loyola’s enrollment to drop, and in 1965 Loyola closed its pharmacy program.
“I remember, we were coming back from Mobile, we were near the Rigolets Bridge and it came as a news flash on WWL Radio that the school was closing – when we got home there was a telegram on the door. That was how my father found out,” Ireland remembers.
While there is a plaque in Bobet Hall on the Loyola University campus honoring the deans of the pharmacy program, the pharmacy museum is the real memorial to all those who have compounded local remedies over the years.
Visit the Museum
Press your nose against the window of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum at 514 Chartres St., and peer into a long-ago world where the neighborhood druggist dispensed mysterious remedies behind a massive carved wooden counter, and sodas came from an ornate fountain and were sipped at a marble topped bar. Originally the location of the shop of Louis Dufilho Jr., the state’s first licensed pharmacist in 1816, tours of exhibits on two floors are available Tuesdays through Saturdays beginning at 10 a.m. (closing at 2 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. Saturdays) for $5 adults and $4 for students and seniors, with those under 6 free.