Ole Miss’ pharmacy dean, Wally Guess, remembered as ‘superior teacher and outstanding researcher’

Published 11:16 am Friday, February 3, 2017

By Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

University of Mississippi

Wallace L. “Wally” Guess, fourth dean of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, serving from 1971 to 1989, died Monday.

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A funeral service for Guess is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Oxford. Burial will follow at College Hill Cemetery.



Guess is remembered as a friendly, steady presence who was supportive to his faculty and dedicated to improving the research presence of the School of Pharmacy.

“He was a very outgoing guy, always had a handshake for everybody, easy to talk with,” said Mickey Smith, chair emeritus of the Department of Pharmacy Administration.

Guess became dean of the School of Pharmacy nearly a year-and-a-half after the accidental death of Dean Charles Hartman in 1970. Chancellor Porter Fortune hired Guess, saying that he had “distinguished himself both as a superior teacher and an outstanding researcher.”

He began his teaching career at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy while working toward his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, which he received in 1949. He earned both his master’s and doctorate in pharmacy while teaching at Texas and completed postdoctoral work in toxicology and pathology.

Before coming to UM, he was director of the Drug Plastic Research and Toxicology Laboratories at UT and completed the first toxicology study of contact lenses.

During Guess’ 18-year [DDA1] tenure at Ole Miss, both the faculty and research activities of the School of Pharmacy grew significantly. He oversaw the establishment of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice and began requiring pharmacy students to complete clinical rotations at the UM Medical Center in Jackson.

He also organized the administration of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences that paved the way for the creation of the National Center for Natural Products Research.

“He was dedicated to pharmacy education,” said Charlie Hufford, dean emeritus for research and graduate programs. “He really wanted the school to not only continue to be a great teaching institute, but to also be a great research environment, and we began to do that with him here.”

Millions of dollars in grants came through the School of Pharmacy during Guess’ tenure. The school installed a state-of-the-art computer and data system that was used, among other ways, to collect poison control information and develop a drug information center for the state.

Outside the lab, Guess was the first UM pharmacy dean to introduce a faculty retreat as a way to improve communication among the school faculty, a practice now considered beneficial in many workplaces and that continues at the School of Pharmacy.

“Dean Guess always had a smile on his face and the best interests of the school at heart in all he did,” said Alice Clark, vice chancellor for university relations who began her career as a pharmacy researcher under Guess’ tenure as dean.

“I especially remember that he was so supportive and encouraging, and that he always took the time to personally recognize and acknowledge every person’s achievement.”

His accomplishments included being an honorary member of the Mexican Pharmaceutical Association, a recipient of the Lederle Research Paper Award and being named an “American Man of Science.” He was a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education.

Guess also served in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the Mississippi Pharmacists Association. During his time as chairman of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Over-the-Counter panel, he oversaw the first drug —cortisone — that was changed from prescription-only to over-the-counter.

“To me he was a very personable guy; took his work seriously,” said Dewey Garner, chair emeritus of the Department of Pharmacy Administration. “He had high ideals for research and teaching and service. He believed service was part of your job.”

Guess remained an Ole Miss supporter after retirement. He and his wife, Betty, continued to live in Oxford, where they enjoyed their pond that William Faulkner famously visited with his Boy Scout troop.

Along with traveling, Guess enjoyed hiking and camping. He was active in College Hill Presbyterian Church and would help his neighbors by chopping wood for them.

“I was fortunate to get to know Dean Guess over my time at Ole Miss,” said David. D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was a wonderful man. He had an incredible vision for the school and truly loved the university.”

Guess completed two-and-a-half years of service in the U.S. Army from February 1943 to September 1945, leaving as a sergeant.

He is survived by his wife, daughters Ginny Cheek and Gerry Gebhard Guess, stepdaughter Julie Harris, stepson Robert L. Shenuell, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.