By Lori Maricle, College of Pharmacy
SPOKANE, Wash. – A member of the first graduating class of the four-year bachelor of science in pharmacy degree at Washington State Agricultural College (now Washington State University), Geraldine (“Jeri”) J. Kerr celebrated her 100th birthday on April 16.
She graduated in 1937 and is the College of Pharmacy’s oldest living alumna. Pharmacy was one of the first four areas of study approved by the Washington State College Board of Regents in 1891. The university adopted a four-year course of study in the early 1930s.
Kerr was fascinated by the experiments in her pharmacy labs and she liked the hands-on aspects of pharmaceutical compounding: “We filled prescriptions for powders folded in paper, filled capsules and made emulsions. I enjoyed that sort of thing,” she said.
Due to the rigorous course of study, students interested in pharmacy had to declare their major the day they enrolled, she said: “With all the lab hours, you didn’t have time for anything else. It was a pretty concentrated program; I never had a free period.”
Indeed, according to a history compiled by WSU professor and dean emeritus Allen I. White, the first semester of the pharmacy program required students to spend 16 hours a week in “lectures and recitations,” with an additional eight hours a week in labs. He further noted, “That was the least demanding of the four semesters required to complete the course of studies.”
Kerr’s father, Towner S. Jayne, played baseball for the Cougars and was one of the earliest pharmacy graduates at WAC, receiving his degree in 1902. His brother, Stephen O. Jayne, was student body president in 1903 and received his degree in engineering in 1904.
She met her future husband, Eldred Evans Kerr, at a WSU football game. He was studying agriculture and had a class with her roommate. He worked as a teacher for a few years and then went back to WSU to become a veterinarian, graduating in 1938.
After graduation, Jeri Kerr practiced as a pharmacist in Cheney, Wash., for two years. Eldred Kerr worked as the first veterinarian in Newport, Wash., and later worked in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He got a job as a federal meat inspector in Spokane. They later lived in Billings, Mont., Washington, D.C., and California before returning to the Pacific Northwest.
Read more about Jeri Kerr at http://www.pharmacy.wsu.edu/125/alumni.html.