Hanley Abramson honored for over 50 years in pharmacy education

Hanley Abramson 1968
Hanley Abramson's introduction in the 1968 Wayne Pharmic

Hanley Abramson is something of an institution at Wayne State.

Born and raised in Detroit, he entered the WSU pharmacy program – then a four-year bachelor’s degree – as a student in 1958, was hired as an assistant professor in 1967, and spent the next 51 years on the faculty. He officially retired from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences last fall, having earned the title professor emeritus and a formal testimonial resolution from the Detroit City Council.

“Hanley stood out for his philosophical nature, his highly productive research, and his warm heart and welcoming smile,” said George Corcoran, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “He is as exceptional a human being as he is a premier educator.”

A researcher in medicinal chemistry, Abramson’s diligent work to develop potential new drugs for treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease was supported by major grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Michigan and American Heart Associations, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). He served the college and the university in nearly every capacity, including professor, chair, interim dean, associate provost, associate vice president academic affairs and associate dean for academic affairs.

“On the closing day of the 2017 baseball season, Andrew Romine of Hanley’s beloved Detroit Tigers played all nine positions in a single game, becoming only the fifth player in the history of baseball to accomplish this feat,” said Corcoran. “Hanley is our academic equivalent. He has done it all for his students, for the pharmacy program, for our college, and for the university.”

Abramson also has been an ardent supporter of inclusion and graduation of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines. He created and led the NSF-funded Metropolitan Detroit Alliance for Minority Participation, bringing together Wayne State, University of Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Tech, University of Michigan Dearborn, Madonna University, Michigan State University and Oakland University on this initiative.  

Most importantly, over his five decades of service to Wayne State, Abramson taught more than 6,000 students.

Insaf Mohammad and Hanley Abramson
Insaf Mohammad with Hanley Abramson at his retirement celebration

Insaf Mohammad, now a WSU Applebaum pharmacy professor herself, remembers Abramson as a key part of her experience as a student – and her career.

“Some individuals come quietly into your life and make a profound, lasting impression on the days to follow. I think about my relationship with Dr. Abramson, beginning as my professor, then as a mentor, and ultimately as a friend,” Mohammad said.  

As a student, Mohammad was awarded the Hanley N. and Young Hee Abramson Endowed Scholarship, and he met her family at the celebratory banquet. She recalls that many years later, as she visited Abramson before applying for her post-residency position on the WSU Applebaum faculty, he not only shared professional wisdom, he also asked about her family.

“His compassion and care for others are admirable qualities that he has demonstrated time and time again, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have crossed paths with him,” she said, “I, too, hope to be someone who can make such a profound, lasting impression on a student during my career.”

Young Hee and Hanley Abramson
Young Hee and Hanley Abramson

In January, the Wayne County Pharmacists Association honored Abramson with the John H. Webster Award for exemplary contributions to the profession of pharmacy. Although Abramson was unable to attend due to health issues, his wife of 51 years, Young Hee, accepted the award and delivered remarks he prepared.

“Someone once said that ‘to teach is to touch a life forever,’” Young Hee said on Abramson’s behalf. “I know that my own life has been greatly enriched by some excellent teachers – whether formally in the academic setting or more informally in the classroom of life. And it is my earnest hope in closing out my teaching career that I may have been able to impact the lives of others as exemplified by John Webster, who nearly a century ago kindled a flame that continues to grow brighter with each new group of students entering the Wayne State pharmacy program.”

The Abramsons created their endowed scholarship in 2012. If you are interested in making a gift in Hanley’s name, or to learn more about setting up your own scholarship fund, contact Denise Thomas at deniselei@wayne.edu or 313-577-1095.

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