Dr. Samuel Coker
Nov. 29, 1926 - Dec. 7, 2015
Saturday, Dec. 12
Grace United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
915 E. Glenn Avenue
Saturday, Dec. 12
Grace United Methodist Church Sanctuary
915 E. Glenn Avenue
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Remembering Dean Coker
On Monday, Dec. 7, the Harrison School of Pharmacy lost someone who has been an integral part of its family and led the School during its formative years. Samuel T. Coker, born Nov. 29, 1926 in Conecuh County, passed away on Dec. 7, 2015.
Dr. Coker served as Dean of Auburn’s School of Pharmacy from 1960 until 1972. During his time, the curriculum was revamped to reflect changes in the pharmaceutical industry and the course of study was extended to five years and reflected a new emphasis on clinical pharmacy. By 1966, Auburn’s School of Pharmacy boasted the largest enrollment of any pharmacy program in the southeast.
Dean Coker was the first born-and-bred Auburn pharmacy alum to lead the program. He received his B.S. degree in pharmacy at Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1951, enrolling with the GI bill following his military service. He went on to receive M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Pharmacology at Purdue in 1955, after completing a dissertation entitled "The Effect of Certain Antispasmodics on the Oxygen Uptake of Rat Jejunum and Liver." Upon completing his degree, he became the first Auburn pharmacy graduate to complete his Ph.D.
According to his obituary, following graduation from Lyeffian High School in 1946, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was due to be shipped to Alaska, but developed pneumonia in Kearns, Utah, and was later sent to the Philippines. On the troop ship, he volunteered to join the Medical Corps. He had given shots to hogs in school and then gave shots to the new recruits.
His first car and first job at Tucker Drugs in Dadeville, Alabama, occurred the same month followed by a job at People’s Drugs in Sylacauga, Alabama. In January 1952, he enrolled in graduate school at Purdue University. In June, 1952 he returned to Alabama to work in Homewood, Alabama, and to become a registered Pharmacist.
He returned to Purdue University in Sept., 1952 to complete his Master’s Degree in Pharmacology-Toxicology. He also met his wife, Carolyn Ridnour Coker, the first Friday night back on campus. They were married in Kokomo, Indiana on August 15, 1954. He completed his Ph. D. from Purdue and Carolyn her B. S. from Purdue in 1955.
Coker was appointed Associate Professor of Pharmacology in the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy. In August, 1955, he was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Kansas City in the Schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry.
In May, 1959, Coker was called and asked to come to Auburn to be interviewed for the Dean of API School of Pharmacy. After completing the Summer Session at UKC, he returned to Auburn as Dean.
He served that position until 1972 when he retired as Dean and became Professor of Pharmacology-Toxicology. He retired in 1992 as Professor Emeritus.
Coker was the son of Zollie Watson Coker and Lillie Anthony Coker. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carolyn Ridnour Coker, and their four children: Dr. Ann Louise Coker (Lexington, Kentucky); Dr. Susan Teri Coker (Hilton Head, South Carolina); Blair Anthony Coker (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), and Cheryl Ruth Schwartzkopf (Istanbul, Turkey); three sons-in- law: Isaac Joyner, Ron Ruth, Erick Schwartzkopf; one daughter-in-law: Grace Lim Coker; seven grandsons: Zach Joyner and wife, Sidney; Whitman Joyner; Owen Ruth; Arison Coker; Noah, Elijah and Nate Schwartzkopf; two granddaughters: Rachel Ruth and Acacia Coker; his younger sister: Dorothy Pitts; and many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews who called him ‘Uncle Sam.’
Memorials may be made to Auburn University Foundation, 317 South College, Auburn, AL 36849 to the Samuel T. and Carolyn Ridnour Coker Endowment for Graduate Research in the Harrison School of Pharmacy or online by clicking HERE. He treasured his former students and his many friends in Auburn, across the nation, and around the world.