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$20 million gift from Marcel Sassola for new pharmacy leadership academy at Purdue
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$20 million gift from Marcel Sassola for new pharmacy leadership academy at Purdue

The Purdue University College of Pharmacy has received a $20 million gift from alumnus Marcel Sassola III to establish a new leadership academy that will expand the college’s offerings and prepare a new pipeline of pharmacy graduates to innovate and lead in an ever-changing health care landscape.

The Marcel Sassola III Leaders and Entrepreneurs Advancing Pharmacy (LEAP) Academy will be modeled after the successful Larsen Leaders Academy in the university’s Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and will focus on strengthening leadership and entrepreneurship among Purdue pharmacy students.

“I felt now was the time to give back and, ultimately, pay my success forward by giving other people the same opportunities I had – or even better,” Sassola (BS Pharm ’83) said. “Purdue and education have both always been passions of mine. I wanted to make sure my gifts would have the biggest possible impact on the university, and this was the right moment.”

The LEAP Academy will feature a LEAP Scholars program for undergraduate, PharmD and PhD students. Students selected as LEAP Scholars will be chosen based on student leadership activities, academic record and a rigorous selection process. Scholars are responsible for:

Participating in the Pharmacy Leadership and Innovation Forum class.

Completing the Purdue Entrepreneurship and Innovation Certificate Program.

Executing special projects and challenges designed to contribute value to the College of Pharmacy’s programs and services.

Maintaining good standing in both academic performance and professional conduct.

Attending two weekend events – including an off-campus leadership and entrepreneurship retreat during the fall and an on-campus retreat during the spring – that will feature “Shark Tank”-like presentations.

The LEAP Scholars Academy will be coordinated by the LEAP Academy program director, which is a new position, and counseled by an alumni entrepreneurship advisory board.

“The College of Pharmacy has a proven legacy of transforming the practice and science of pharmacy to lead advances in human health and of developing graduates who display a broad range of expertise that extends to areas such as management, economics and public health,” said Eric L. Barker, the Jeannie and Jim Chaney Dean of the College of Pharmacy and professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacy. “Through Marcel Sassola’s generosity, we will be able to build on that rich tradition and provide our students with all the tools they need to succeed as leaders and pioneers in the industry.”

Sassola is the former CEO of Santa Barbara Specialty Pharmacy, which services California and five nearby states, and has more than 35 years of experience as a pharmacist and entrepreneur. He is a member of the Purdue Alumni Association and President’s Council and also is active in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles communities.

“Purdue helped me build a foundation of education and simultaneously provided me the ability to learn more about who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Giving back now makes me feel like I’ve found a missing piece,” Sassola said. “I look forward to meeting the first LEAP Scholars, serving as a steward for this exciting new program and witnessing the evolution of the College of Pharmacy.”

Matt Folk, president and CEO of the Purdue for Life Foundation and vice president for university advancement and alumni engagement, said, “With all the giant leaps occurring right now at Purdue, this is a critical time for the university and its future. This gift from Marcel Sassola is a shining example of how our alumni continue to step up in support of Purdue, its mission and its direction moving forward.”

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative Universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

The Purdue for Life Foundation helps friends and alumni of Purdue University stay connected, get involved and give back. Created on March 11, 2020, the foundation deepens alumni ties to Purdue, drives and coordinates all alumni-related activities across the Purdue family’s post graduation lives and works with alumni and friends to garner support for the university. Our organization combines the alumni engagement function of the Purdue Alumni Association and the University Development Office, and it includes President’s Council, the John Purdue Club and the Office of Industry Partnerships, as well as alumni lifelong learning programs and on-campus residential opportunities.

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