Edward and Karen Skaff recently established an Endowed Scholarship Fund to help promising students achieve a rewarding career through their studies at the highly regarded Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Ed grew up in Del Norte, Colo., worked in his father’s grocery store and stocked shelves, worked in the produce department and helped customers. “In those days, grocery stores could sell only a limited amount of OTC drugs; for example, they were not allowed to sell tincture of iodine.” Observing the professionalism of pharmacists in drug stores made him think of pharmacy as a career option.
“Lifting crates of lettuce was heavy and boring. So, I decided that dispensing medicine would be a more interesting and a prestigious career.” says Skaff. He was determined to be in a retail business and thought pharmacy would be a good venue. He majored in a combination of business and pharmacy and earned his degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he met his wife, Karen, also a university student. He graduated in 1959 with a pharmacy degree.
“It was a stretch to go to school. I worked my way through school by working at McDermott Drug,” Skaff recalls. He discovered that by working he got better grades. “I had to allocate my time better and didn’t have time to play.”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
After graduation, Skaff bought his first pharmacy in 1962 in Evergreen, followed by his second store in Idaho Springs and a third store in Aspen Park. He sold the prescription files to Safeway in Idaho Springs in 2002, leased them part of the building for the pharmacy, and converted the remaining space to a liquor store. Three years later, he followed the same procedure with the Evergreen store. Then in 2011, he sold the Evergreen Liquor Store business, and retired.
While he was building his business, Skaff never forgot how the school helped launch his career.
Reconnecting with the School
During the 1980s he met with Dean Lou Diamond and reconnected with the institution. “I became more excited about my career when I met him. I asked what I could do for the SOP and he suggested helping to finish the top floor of the pharmacy building on the 9th Avenue campus.” That’s when the Skaffs began to philanthropically support the school. The school’s conference room was named in Ed’s honor.
During that time Skaff served on the school’s Development Council helping to raise funds toward the construction of the new Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Building on the Anschutz Medical Campus. In recognition of his generosity, the school named its major meeting facility the Edward and Karen Skaff Board Room. His efforts not only benefited the SOP, but also would prove to be very beneficial for him. “I made excellent connections while serving on the council, which in turn helped me when I wanted to sell my business,” says Skaff. “The school helped me enter and exit my career in pharmacy and for that I am very grateful.”
Coming Full Circle
Now, the Skaffs are enjoying retirement with an eye to further giving back. “I’ve had such a rewarding career and the school has been an instrumental part of it. So, now’s the perfect time to give back,” says Skaff.
They recently made a contribution of $250,000 to start the fund and are planning to add at least 2 million dollars from their estate planning. The initial contribution is intended to support at least one scholarship recipient each year.
“They realize how difficult it is for students to balance the demands of pharmacy school and the costs to attend. They want to offer an aid to these students that would encourage them to be successful in pursuing a degree in pharmacy.” Today pharmacy is a very challenging profession that is constantly changing.
Described as a “full circle gift,” the Skaffs’ see this as a gift that keeps on giving years of satisfaction to themselves, as well as benefiting the students.