URI pharmacy grad honors mentor, helps students with $100,000 pledge

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KINGSTON, R.I. – February 13, 2007 — A 1984 graduate of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy has made a 10-year, $100,000 pledge to bolster an existing pharmacy scholarship fund named after one of his favorite professors.

Paul Hastings, president and chief executive officer of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Redwood City, Calif., made the pledge to the Norman A. and Mary Campbell Scholarship. The fund supports students who demonstrate academic proficiency and leadership in pharmacy student organizations. When the Campbell Scholarship fund was established in 2001, Hastings made a $15,000 donation.

The gift is part of the University’s “Making a Difference,” campaign, a $100 million private fund drive to build the University’s endowment.

“Paul’s generous contribution to the Campbell scholarship reminds us all of the special bonds that are often formed between professor and student and the many ways in which such relationships manifest themselves over time,” said Pharmacy Dean Donald E. Letendre. “His gift serves to underscore his long-standing commitment to student development and servant leadership…he is truly an extraordinary gentleman and consummate professional who continues to lead by example.”

Having worked early in his career for such well-known firms as Hoffmann-LaRoche and Genzyme Corp., Hastings has gained national prominence for his founding role in several biotechnology and pharmaceutical start up companies.

At OncoMed, he oversees a firm that is pioneering biomedical research and the development of novel therapeutics that target a new class of solid tumor cancer stem cells. He has been involved in companies conducting leading research on cancer, multiple sclerosis and age-related macular degeneration. One of OncoMed’s recent findings, a gene signature to identify cancer stem cells, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, just two years after the company was founded. “Our intention is to discover and develop cancer therapeutics that attack cancer stem cells, the bad stem cells that initiate tumor growth.”

Hastings said the lessons learned and the people who guided him at URI are the foundations of his success. Professor Emeritus Norman Campbell of Narragansett was one of those individuals.

“He taught me about leadership and embracing diversity,” said Hastings, a Portland, Maine native who was president of Tau Kappa Epsilon and was involved with the pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi, while a student.

“He was an amazing teacher, mentor, coach and counselor, as well as a caring person. To this day, every time I visit the University and the College, the first words out of his mouth are about students and what they have accomplished, obstacles they are overcoming or activities they are participating in.”

Hastings was active on and off campus, interning in the pharmacies of South County Hospital and CVS in Wakefield. He was also a waiter at Casa Rossi, the former Italian restaurant in Narragansett.

“I had a very busy schedule putting myself through school while enjoying campus life,” Hastings said.

Campus life and work commitments weren’t the only things that kept him busy. Hastings experienced severe relapses of Crohn’s disease and endured two major surgeries, as well as many hospital stays. One of the surgeries removed his entire colon. At the time, pharmacy was a five-year-program, but because of the medical setbacks, Hastings had to add a sixth year.

“Every time I was about to fall flat on my face, I picked myself up with the help of many friends,” Hastings said. “With the love and support of my fraternity brothers, our house mother Sarah, my friends and classmates and supportive professors like Norm, I made it.

“I discovered academic lessons did not come without the expense of life lessons, and 23 years later, I cherish both.”

He said Campbell was a critical reason for his success. “Norm taught me how to stick my neck on the line for others by doing it for me,” Hastings said.

Hastings chose a scholarship fund because like many students today, he relied on his own resources to get through school. “I know how good it feels, as a student to be awarded financial aid and scholarships when you think you will never be able to afford college on your own. I want to give back and help someone else get through what is, today, a much more expensive educational experience.

“I want to give more, and I hope to do that if I take my newly formed start-up company public one day.”

He said the persistence that was so critical to his University success is necessary in the biomedical industry as well.

“I love this new chapter in my life and am looking forward to many more, including the construction of a new College of Pharmacy at URI and center for biotechnology,” Hastings said.

The Hastings gift is part of URI’s “Making a Difference” Campaign, which seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered campus experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives. The campaign will be launched in fall 2007. For more information on the campaign, link to http://www.advance.uri.edu/giving/default.htm.

Paul Hastings, URI News Bureau photo courtesy of Paul Hastings