UNC-Chapel Hill national champs in pharmacy

UNC-Chapel Hill had a “We’re No. 1!” party Wednesday, but it had nothing to do with basketball.

Leaders gathered at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy to celebrate the school’s recent No. 1 ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Universities are fond of touting their rankings, but rarely hold events to do so. The pharmacy school’s climb from second to first in U.S. News’ graduate school rankings this month was enough to justify a reception and a little bit of bragging.

The pharmacy school’s rise is due, in part, to a 2014 donation of $100 million from Fred Eshelman, an alumnus and pharmaceutical entrepreneur. The money created an Eshelman Institute for Innovation.

Even before the gift, Chancellor Carol Folt said, UNC pharmacy was a school on the move. “We all know those rankings don’t come easily, and they don’t change very often,” she said.

Eshelman, who was on hand for Wednesday’s party, joked that when he first met the school’s dean, Bob Blouin, the conversation was short: “Dean, No. 1: Get ‘er done.” But he pointed out that ambition is a key for success in any venture.

“You hit what you aim at,” Eshelman said. “You aim at nothing, that’s what you get. Every time.”

Blouin said the school’s focus on research, its revamped curriculum and its international partnerships all fed into its national recognition.

“Our reputation, and this ranking, is so much dependent upon the work that our students do, not while they’re here but when they leave us and go off into the world and do so many wonderful, wonderful things,” Blouin said. “It’s that distinction that brings credit to us as an organization.”

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill