Pharmacy alumna was in a class all by herself

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Pharmacy alumna was in a class all by herself

Victoria Dickinson, 92, creates a scholarship to honor her parents for helping her pursue her dream.

In 1946, Victoria Dickinson graduated at the bottom of her class.

And at the top.

Because of World War II, she was the only one in her graduating class.

Dickinson graduated from the University of Nebraska’s College of Pharmacy, located in Lincoln back in the day. There were 30 men and three women when she started in 1942. But by Christmas of that year, all of the men had been drafted for the war and over the next three years, the other two girls had dropped out.

She remembers walking during the commencement ceremony with two men behind her. The men were the only graduates from the College of Law. One said to her, “Our college outnumbers yours 2-to-1.”

But being the only student in her class had its perks. Dickinson got to do a lot of lab work and get one-on-one attention from her professors.

The war also brought men back to campus. Love Library housed the Army soldiers from across the country who were studying engineering and other fields. Her future husband was one of them.

She met Robert “Cliff” Dickinson at a USO dance, which girls were encouraged to attend. They married after graduation and moved to his home state of Michigan after the war.

A lot of officers dated the female students. But three times, Dickinson had to watch soldiers enter her dorm to deliver the news that someone’s loved one had died.

After she graduated, she worked in the pharmacy at J.L. Hudson Department Store in Detroit for 10 years. She later worked at the Women’s Hospital in Detroit, which is now called the Hutzel Women’s Hospital. She retired as an assistant director of pharmacy in 1983. She loved every minute of it, despite sometimes experiencing discrimination.

“I did not know pharmacy was a profession controlled by men,” she said.

Some customers would rather talk to male pharmacists, and other pharmacists would get out of line with women pharmacists in a way that a man would’ve never been treated. That didn’t stop Dickinson.

“The women that were in pharmacy were really good.”

Dickinson fell in love with chemistry as a little girl. But there weren’t any general chemistry jobs for her, so she chose pharmacy.

“Pharmacy took care of my desire to learn about chemistry.”

Things have changed a lot in pharmacy since Dickinson stood behind the counter. Pharmacists didn’t have computers like today, and it also took a few days to get the drugs.

Now at 92, she will still walk into a drugstore and wish she could get behind the counter.

Dickinson grew up on a farm near Pierce, Nebraska. Her father raised cattle. Her mother worked as a secretary for the school board before she married and then stayed at home helping with the farm. Her sister, Jean Bell, now deceased, went to college at UNL two years after her and graduated from the College of Home Economics.

Dickinson’s parents, Victor and LaVone Chilquist worked hard to put their two daughters through college. This is why Dickinson established a $150,000 scholarship for the UNMC College of Pharmacy: The Victor and LaVone Chilquist Pharmacy Scholarship Fund

“They contributed so much that I wanted to honor them, and it had to be pharmacy because that was my love.”

She wanted to give back to the university because she also had scholarships through school, and creating the endowed Chilquist Scholarship was a meaningful way to make her parents’ names live on.

“We knew the sacrifice they were making,” she said. “In honoring my parents, I’m showing the importance of my education. They were the ones who made it happen.”

Dickinson had planned this scholarship fund for a long time. She tries to encourage every girl she knows that enjoys chemistry to go into pharmacy.

“I am and always will be a Cornhusker,” she said. “The Victor and LaVone Chilquist Pharmacy Scholarship was something I could give to the state, something I could honor my parents with, and something dear to my heart.”

To honor her parents, Victoria Dickinson recently created the “Victor and LaVone Chilquist Pharmacy Scholarship Fund” for pharmacy students at UNMC. If you would like to contribute to this fund, or to any other fund that benefits UNMC, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation 800-432-3216.

Scholarships are a priority of the University of Nebraska’s “Our Students, Our Future” fundraising initiative, which will help make better futures for us all. The two-year, $200 million initiative runs through 2017. If you would like to help, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

(This story was written by foundation intern Jennifer Rooney, who is studying journalism, advertising and public relations and English at UNL)

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