Pharmacy's History: Columbia’s Pharmacy School Shut Its Doors in 1976

Pharmacy Times, April 2020, Volume 88, Issue 4

The Ivy League university’s College of Pharmaceutical Sciences had provided education for nearly 150 years.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a retired pharmacist. Of course, my first question was, “Where did you go to pharmacy school?”

“Columbia University,” he replied.

I was surprised to hear this because I did not know that Columbia had a pharmacy school, and sure enough, he explained that it had closed in in the summer of 1976.

Before closing, the Columbia University College of Pharmaceutical Sciences was the second oldest of its kind in the country and had provided education for drug investigators and pharmacists for 148 years. But the school experienced severe financial problems and was threatened with loss of accreditation. As part of a phase-out plan, the school stopped admitting students in 1973.

As early as 1939, the college, which was housed in an aging 6‐story building on West 68th Street in New York, New York, was under pressure from the American Council of Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE) to upgrade its facilities and stabilize finances. ACPE placed the college on probation twice. Because of its financial problems, the college lacked money to improve the facilities, and a merger with a university was attempted. When this effort failed, the school had to close.

Although the pharmacy school had been affiliated with Columbia University since 1904, the college was not part of the university corporation. Columbia rejected a late-1960s proposal to take over the pharmacy school because of costs but advanced a $2 million line of credit in 1974 to allow the remaining 92 enrolled undergraduate and a few graduate students to complete their degrees.

Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.


Columbia college of pharmacy is closing down this summer. New York Times. May 23, 1976. 1976/05/23/284622452.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0. Accessed September 16, 2019.