Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Schumacher passes away after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease
Last winter, Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Schumacher passed away after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. Faculty shared their memories of the man whose talents and interests went beyond the fields of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences.
Throughout his life, Dr. Schumacher was a man of pharmacy and science and pursued knowledge as well as his other hobbies. Jerry was born in Detroit, MI. His family moved to Nebraska where his father owned and operated a pharmacy on Lincoln’s O Street that was within walking distance of the Nebraska Cornhuskers Memorial Stadium. It was fitting that his father should operate a pharmacy so close to a football stadium, as these two fields, pharmacy and football, would be two of Jerry’s many interests in life.
Jerry was a teacher above all things. He began his time at Northeastern University in 1978 and taught until 2009. When he joined the Husky community in 1978, there were two main factions when it came to pharmacy: the clinical faculty and the pharmaceutical scientist faculty. One group rarely interacted with the other.
“Jerry could walk both departments,” said Judy Barr, professor emerita, a close colleague and friend, who worked with Jerry for almost 35 years. “It was one of his assets.”
Jerry dedicated his life to the field of pharmacy. He was a lifelong scholar, teacher, and learner. He published more than 100 manuscripts in numerous journals and a book that was used in many schools of pharmacy. He was a man who had his convictions but did not allow those convictions to stand in the way of theories that had been supported through research or new evidence.
“He could persuade people,” Barr said. “He was data driven. He could also be convinced.”
Rising to the position of dean of the college of pharmacy didn’t mean Jerry would stop teaching. He continued to be in the classroom even after he took on the dean role and the responsibilities that came with it, including teaching a pharmacokinetics course.
“He taught the entire time he was dean,” Barr said. “He was an educator; he was an administrator.”
Florence Schumacher, Jerry’s wife, described him as, “an extremely hard-working, prolific academic who devoted his life to pharmacy.”
Florence met Jerry while he was working at the UCLA pharmacy. Florence was a Bruin sophomore at the time and looking for a job.
“I walked from department to department,” Florence recalled over the telephone. “The director said, ‘We could use some help.’ I was there for a few hours during the week. I was doing administrative work on Saturday. Jerry would come in and do some extra work. We hit it off from the start.”
Jerry and Florence were married in 1966, two years after her graduation from UCLA.
“Jerry and I were best friends,” Florence fondly said of her husband of 54 years. “Though very different, we complemented each other and celebrated our differences.”
As much as Jerry enjoyed his work, he had plenty of other interests that went beyond Northeastern and pharmacy. He played clarinet and saxophone and played in the marching band at the University of Southern California where he earned his PharmD degree. While at school, he played jazz gigs to support himself.
Music was a fixture in the Schumacher home. Jerry owned 1,400 jazz CDs. He and Florence were regulars at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berklee jazz events. The Schumachers enjoyed going on jazz cruises and convinced the Barrs to go with them.
“He introduced us to that,” Judy said. “We had never gone on a jazz cruise. He said, ‘You have to go.’”
The Barrs were glad they went. Closer to home, the Schumachers also frequented Cambridge’s Regattabar Jazz Club and concerts at Babson College. Jerry subscribed to jazz magazines and listened to jazz while he worked.
“He was a real ‘Renaissance Man’”, Florence said. “He was a scientist. He ghost-wrote fiction. He was a musician. He loved to read. I always thought of him as a Renaissance Man.”
“He was a humble man,” former dean Jack Reynolds said. “A quiet man. When he said something, it meant something.”
Jerry enjoyed spending time with his children as well as his wife. He was proud of his children and would frequently watch Celtics games on television with them.
He also enjoyed college sports and was constantly watching and supporting football teams from Northeastern, USC, and Nebraska. He also loved the New England Patriots as well as, outside of football, the Boston Bruins and aforementioned Celtics.
“He watched USC. He watched the bowl games,” Barr said. “USC vs. Nebraska. That was a hard one. On New Year’s Day, he would need two or three TV sets. He was a sports nut.”
Florence described New Year’s Day as, “A hallowed day.” An extra television would be rolled in for a day of football. Jerry would watch the games with his son, David. Florence always planned on having the day to herself.
Jerry attended not only sporting events but also museums. He and Florence were members of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The Schumachers travelled all over the world, usually for pharmaceutical conferences. A museum was always included in their itinerary. “He always encouraged people to strive; to do the best they can do,” Barr said. “He was hard-working,” Florence said. “Nationally known. He won many awards. He was a distinguished alumnus at every school.” “He was fair as the day is long. He looked at a situation critically to make the fairest decision,” said Reynolds. The pharmacy that Jerry’s father owned in Nebraska is no longer there. It’s now a small restaurant. Jerry Schumacher has also moved on, but not without leaving his mark on Northeastern University and the field of pharmacy.