Tom C. Sharp, Jr., Executive Director Emeritus of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, the voice of pharmacy in Tennessee for more than four decades, passed away at Nashville's Alive Hospice on December 23 at the age of 90.A Nashville native, he and his brother Charles "Charlie" Russell Sharp, who both became pharmacists, grew up working with their father at Sharp's Drugstore in East Nashville. Tom would later succeed his father, Tom C. Sharp, Sr., as leader of the Tennessee Pharmaceutical Association, serving for 30 years, as his father had done before him. As Executive Director of the Association, now named the Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA), Tom Jr. was at the helm of an organization that led its practitioners to continually develop and improve their skills to better serve their patients, guiding the profession of pharmacy through its transformation from "ol' Doc in the corner drugstore" to the professional medication experts serving patients today.
Tom, an Isaac Litton High School graduate, interrupted his collegiate career at Tennessee Technological University to enlist in the U. S. Army during World War II, where he served in a Signal Battalion stationed in New Guinea.
At the end of the war, he completed his pharmacy degree at the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy in Memphis and returned to Nashville to practice pharmacy. In addition to taking care of patients in the family drugstore, Dr. Sharp served for several years as Chief Pharmacist at the Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospital.
During his three-decade tenure with TPA, from 1964 to 1994, he served as mentor to countless students and recently-graduated pharmacists, encouraging them to develop their leadership and political skills in order to succeed in the healthcare arena. As the demand for well-trained pharmacists increased, he laid groundwork for what would become the state's five new pharmacy schools. Each of the Founding Deans of these institutions served in several leadership positions with TPA prior to their academic appointments: Dr. Phil Johnston, Belmont University College of Pharmacy, Nashville; Dr. Larry Calhoun, Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City; Dr. Roger L. Davis, Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy, Nashville; Dr. Walter Fitzgerald, South College School of Pharmacy, Knoxville; and Dr. Sheila Mitchell, Union University School of Pharmacy, Jackson.
Roger Davis, who served as TPA's Associate Executive Director for almost two decades during the time he was an Associate Dean of the UT College of Pharmacy, remarked, "Tom Sharp, Jr., made an imprint on the lives of thousands of pharmacists and on his beloved profession of pharmacy which is immeasurable. His passing leaves a void which will never be filled. Not only was Tom a valued friend to many, but he was a consummate businessman, inspired visionary, experienced mentor, impeccable man of character and vigorous advocate for patient care. Most of all, he was a true southern gentleman who respected every individual he met and believed that honesty and integrity were values by which every man should be measured. It was my great blessing to have been associated with him for over four decades, on a daily basis for almost three of those decades. I will miss my friend and colleague more than words can express."
When he retired in 1994, Dr. Sharp was succeeded by another of his protégés, Baeteena M. Black, who had been the first female TPA President and became the first female TPA Executive Director. She said, "Tom Sharp, Jr., was a pillar of pharmacy in Tennessee. He was a visionary leader and will be remembered most for his passionate service to his profession and the Tennessee Pharmacists Association. Dr. Sharp dedicated his career to improving access to pharmacists and the care they provide. Many were blessed with his friendship and he was an inspiration to all who knew him. He taught so many of us so much about life, kindness, service and pharmacy. I will forever miss his friendship, advice and encouragement."
During the final four decades of the 20th century, Dr. Sharp was a familiar presence at the Tennessee State Legislature, appearing each time important healthcare decisions were discussed in committee or on the floor. As TPA Executive Director Emeritus, he returned to "The Hill" to help pass the historic Pharmacy Practice Act in 1996 and continued to work several years with pharmacists and TPA leadership to further the cause of pharmacy and the patients it serves.
The recipient of several professional honors, including the highest honor bestowed upon a pharmacist, the Bowl of Hygeia Award in 1994, Dr. Sharp was most appreciative of the "Tom C. Sharp Pharmacist of the Year" plaque presented to him in 2000. Originally named in honor of his father, the award now honors both father and son. Although, he had long protested it was not "proper" for him to accept any award from his Association, the members differed, and the presenter stated, "It is most appropriate that Tom C. Sharp be presented with this award - not just as "pharmacist of the year," but as "Tennessee's Pharmacist of the Century."
After his retirement, he concentrated on collecting and organizing the historical documents and photos he had amassed over his career, and wrote the book The History of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association.
In the course of his career, his influence went beyond pharmacy and beyond the borders of Tennessee. He served as President of the National Association of Pharmacy Association Executives in 1978 and 1979 and as President of the Tennessee Society of Association Executives in 1970. In both organizations, he was prized for his wisdom and sought for his advice.
During his working years and since, Tom C. Sharp, Jr., depended on the advice and care of his dear wife Evelyn Holeman Sharp. From making sure of his medication schedule to reading and offering valuable revisions to his book, she has always been important to everything he accomplished.
In addition to Evelyn, he is survived by his brother Charlie of Cottontown; daughter Marilyn (Tom) Webster of Columbia; son Tom (Jennifer) C. Sharp III of Knoxville; grandson Thomas Webster and his daughter Mary Campbell Webster of Smyrna; grandson Jonathan (Kristin) Webster of Brentwood and their daughters Elizabeth Hazelton Webster and Kathleen Coleman Webster; and nieces Pat Kinchole and Cheryl Tatum.
Please join us in honoring Dr. Sharp and all that he has done for the career of Pharmacy.
Or, you may give by check. Please make checks payable to UTFI and note on the check that the gift is for the Dr. Tom C. Sharp Scholarship Endowment and mail to:
UTHSC Office of Development
ATTN: Jada Williams
62 South Dunlap, Suite 515
Memphis, TN 38163