Bob Blouin retires after 2 decades at Carolina

Former provost guided academics during the pandemic and as pharmacy dean led the school to its No. 1 ranking.

Bob Blouin wearing commencement robes speaking at a podium that reads
“It has been the joy of a lifetime to be the dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy," Bob Blouin said. “It’s a very special and unique place in a positive way.” (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

In 2003, when Robert “Bob” Blouin came from the University of Kentucky to become dean of the UNC School of Pharmacy, he found that his new office wasn’t inside Beard Hall. Instead, his administrative assistant led him outside to two 30-year-old double-wide trailers sitting in a parking lot.

With Beard Hall under renovation, the trailer would be his office for the next two years. In this humble home, Blouin built a strategy that would set up the school for an outstanding future.

Blouin served as Carolina’s pharmacy dean from 2003 to 2017. Under his leadership, the school became an internationally recognized leader in pharmacy practice, education and research, ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Blouin also oversaw an impressive increase by school faculty in growing the research portfolio from $2 million in research funding in 2002 to $36 million in 2016, ranking second among the nation’s pharmacy schools. During this time, the school was named the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in honor of alumnus Fred Eshelman ‘72, whose unprecedented gift of $100 million formed the Eshelman Institute for Innovation.

In 2017, Blouin left the pharmacy school to become Carolina’s provost and executive vice chancellor. He helped direct the development of the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. Blouin also oversaw the implementation of the Operational Excellence initiative to improve service levels across campus and a data science initiative that eventually led to the creation of the School of Data Science and Society. In 2019, he created the digital and lifelong learning unit, a fortuitous move that proved invaluable as the University rapidly transitioned from residential to fully remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

In 2022, Blouin stepped down as provost and resumed his Eshelman faculty position as Vaughn and Nancy Bryson Distinguished Professor in the pharmacotherapy and experimental therapeutics division. He retired Oct. 31 from Carolina but will assume a new role as president and CEO of Med Aditus International, founded by Dhiren Thakker, former pharmacy faculty member and interim dean.

“I want to thank Bob Blouin for the extraordinary work he did in his four years as executive vice chancellor and provost. His steady hand and disciplined operational approach helped see Carolina through the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most difficult chapters in the modern history of American higher education,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “We are all grateful for his devoted leadership and service to the University as provost as well as his guidance of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy to its No. 1 ranking during his tenure as dean. We congratulate him and wish him well in his new role as Med Aditus International’s CEO.”

Pharmacy Dean Angela Kashuba said of Blouin, “Bob’s legacy at the school is evident each day as students, faculty and staff enter our building. He helped make us what we are today, the No. 1 school of pharmacy in the country. Because of Bob, our community is driven to continue to be a leader in pharmacy and pharmaceutical science.”

Blouin said the key to success during his tenure as dean was the people. He brought the aspirational goal to be an international leader in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences education, research and public service. Recruiting and retaining intellectual talent and having them believe in the vision was top priority — for faculty, staff and students.

“As a result, when you have people that really believe in what they’re doing and really aspire to make a difference, they work very hard for the institution,” he said. “My biggest parting words would be ‘thank you.’ It has been the joy of a lifetime to be the dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. It’s a very special and unique place in a positive way.”