|Fordham's first attempt to open a College of Pharmacy in 1911 stalled when the only two students who registered realized they were the entire student body and withdrew in panic. Fr. Thomas J. McCluskey, S.J., Fordham's President, however, was not easily discouraged. He regrouped his medical faculty, stepped up the advertising campaign and snagged 6 students the next year. Eventually, the student body would number over six hundred. Its quarters were originally in the basement of the Medical School, but in 1937 it moved into Thebaud Hall as the sole occupant.
For a long time, the student body was predominantly Jewish, and the Jesuits tried to accommodate them by exempting them from a required course in Catholic theology, observing the Jewish holidays, and celebrating Chanukah as well as Christmas every year. Jacob Diner, who served as Dean of the College for twenty-five years, was himself Jewish.
The College was a professional school, offering a three-year program in pharmacy and did not require its students to obtain bachelor's degrees until the 1950's when the course of study was extended from 3 years to 5. For many years the College produced thousands of successful graduates, and many pharmacy alumni remain loyal to Fordham. Late in the 1960's, however, enrollment had dropped to below 300. Faced with the need to upgrade the School's laboratories and equipment, the University decided instead to close the school in 1971.
One of the College's hard-working and successful graduates was Joseph Slotnik who was awarded a scholarship to attend Fordham in 1929. He was an excellent student and despite the cataclysm of the Great Depression and his father's sudden death during his final exams, Joseph graduated in 1932. He loved his profession and spent his entire life in it. Early in his career he began collecting antique pharmaceutical instruments and equipment, eventually amassing over 200 items valued at $17,500
The collection, easily on of the finest in private hands, contains over forty mortars and pestles from various periods, some made of brass, wood, iron, bronze, porcelain, and glass. There are many glass containers for medicinal powders and liquids, each with a label identifying the contents. In all shapes and sizes, they have glass stoppers. Brass weights and other paraphernalia are also present, but the most striking objects are the more than fifty, brightly decorated, white ceramic drug jars from many periods and countries. Bold, black lettering identifies the chemicals, in Latin, of course. On most of the jars, ornate designs or floral motifs are painted in bright colors. When lined up on shelves, they create a delightful visual effect.
Young Joseph, or George as he was called (no one can remember why), began his career working in a pharmacy in White Plains on weekdays and at another in Pawling on weekends. Eventually, he ended up working for a pharmacist in White Plains named Fred Frankfurter, the brother of Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court Justice and advisor to President Roosevelt.
In 1952, Joseph opened his own pharmacy in Valhalla where he worked seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. until 1978 when he retired. Married in 1938 to Blanche Lagotsky, he had three children, six grandchildren and 1 great grandchild - all of whom graduated from college. Joseph himself returned to college after his retirement to earn a bachelor's degree in history at Pace University. He was then accepted at New York Medical School in their gerontology program for a master's degree. Unfortunately, failing health prevented him from attending. All of his life he told his children and grandchildren that "Education is growth." When he died in 1997, they put those words on his tombstone.
After his death, two of his children, Arlene and Gary, decided not to sell the collection, but to give it to an institution where their father could be memorialized. Fordham is grateful to the family for placing this unique and unusual collection in the library. After the exhibit closes, portions of the collection will be exhibited on a rotating basis in the Science Library as a memorial to Joseph and as a reminder of Fordham's rich history.