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Barry and Barbara ColemanUTEP Our Donors Barbara and Barry Coleman

Barry and Barbara Coleman have been long-standing, generous supporters of UTEP – their adopted university. They lived in El Paso for over fifty years, actively involved in the civic affairs before retiring to Dallas in 2012. Barbara worked as an educator and served on a school board and Barry was a pharmacist and entrepreneur. Their story, however, covers a lifetime of shared interests.

Born into the Great Depression, Barry’s early life was not easy. He did not have fond memories of this time, born out of difficult times and difficult circumstances. His mother, however, instilled in him a sense of duty and obligation, care for others and a belief that helping others was always important.

Early on, Barry found a real passion for health care which was stoked in high school, working as a clerk at a Walgreens in downtown Chicago. “I went to work every day and I was proud to work with pharmacists. I enjoyed helping people, and I had a chance to do that on almost on a daily basis when I worked with patients. I enjoyed it very much. It was very satisfying,” Barry recalled. He received a scholarship from Walgreens and enrolled at the University of Arkansas in its College of Pharmacy. Despite being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956 during the height of the Korean War, Barry was still part of the first graduating classes and received his degree in 1957.

Barry’s first assignment was at El Paso’s Fort Bliss. When Barry came to El Paso he worked at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center at the old wooden barracks pharmacy. He met and married Barbara, a native Houstonian, before fulfilling his commitment to the army. “We were modest people. My goal was to have a family, a home, and my own business so that I could provide for my family. El Paso became our home.”

In 1960, the Coleman’s bought their first pharmacy store near East Yandell Drive and Campbell Street. They eventually grew to open five Coleman Pharmacies and five Sun Drugs between 1960 and 1987.

“Our success was a joint effort. Barbara was a driven educator. She served on the school board and was on the R.E. Thomason Hospital Board of Directors.” He served as president of the American Cancer Society, the Texas Pharmacy Association and the El Paso Drug Abuse Council. Throughout his career, Barry led by example, making important strides to advance health care. As the president of the American Cancer Society, he initiated a campaign in the 1970’s to encourage pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products. His resolution passed and he was successful with the small chains and independent stores.

Fathers often make choices between family and career, but that was not the case for Barry. While nurturing his family, he employed his children in the family business, instilling a work ethic in them, as well as compassion for their customers who relied on the pharmacy for medicines. He cared for his employees, helping a number of them earn undergraduate degrees from UTEP.

Through their work, Barry and Barbara recognized a need to help bring more pharmacists to the area. “We saw the need to help El Pasoans to pursue a pharmacy degree.” In pursuing this goal, Barry started conversations with UTEP administrators and faculty and participated in various health committees at UTEP promoting the allied sciences and pharmacy. “I appreciated the wonderful opportunity that UTEP gave to students who, in turn, contribute to society and to better themselves, and their families.”

In 2014, Barry and Barbara Coleman established the Barry and Barbara Coleman Professorship. The endowment helps support UTEP’s Pharmacy Program by advancing faculty research working on Texas border public health issues. “We care so much about El Paso and felt strongly that in order to build a great Pharmacy Program, investing in the faculty was so important,” shared Barbara Coleman.

Barry Coleman died in April 2015. In June 2015, the Texas State Legislature approved a free-standing Pharmacy Program at UTEP, the life-long dream of Barry Coleman. Through their combined giving and advocacy, Barry’s legacy will be felt for generations. Barry Coleman was the first inductee to the UTEP Pharmacy Hall of Fame in recognition of exemplary dedication and service to the Pharmacy profession and extraordinary commitment to the education of Pharmacy students in El Paso, Texas.

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