After a decade of financing their own kids’ college tuition, Hugh and Cari Mack now have committed to paying part of college tuition for complete strangers.
The Macks, owners of Randall Pharmacy of Redfield and Faulkton, fully endowed the Mack Family Scholarship in late December 2019. When first awarded in September, it will provide $2,000 per year to a student committed to community pharmacy.
“At one point, we had four kids in college. As that started to wind down, we started thinking about what we could do to help” the college, Cari Mack said. That was about three years ago. The Macks built that goal into their financial plan and made the necessary gift late last year.
Cari, a 1985 pharmacy graduate, and Hugh, a 1986 pharmacy graduate, started donating to the college through the dean’s club soon after graduation. Their employer had a matching program that incentivized giving, Cari Mack said.
With five youngsters filling their Redfield home and the back shop of their pharmacy, the Macks had few chances to visit campus.
Gave to Avera Health and Science Center
But as the kids grew, the Macks traveled to Brookings for ballgames or concerts. As the Avera Health and Science Center was being built in 2009-10, the Macks were asked to contribute. “We were honored to be asked,” Cari Mack said. They sponsored a faculty office and did so in the name of her parents, Mac and Arlee Nielsen.
“That was a game-changer for us,” Mack said. “Making an investment in a building that was going to make a big difference for the college really strengthened our commitment to the university. Our first child started there in 2009. The kids’ involvement was really a draw. We really felt we had a connection there.”
In 2012, she accepted an invitation to serve on the SDSU Foundation’s board of trustees and continues on the board, working on its membership committee.
Being on the board of trustees helped motivate the Macks to create an endowed scholarship.
“It gave me a better understanding of how important it is for departments to plan and know they’re going to have a scholarship on a constant basis,” Mack said.
As a trustee, she also sat in on meetings of the development council for the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. “A couple of years ago, I was asked to take a formal seat. It is a good supplement to any trustee to sit on development councils” to get to know college needs on a deeper level, she said.
In prior years, Hugh Mack also served on the development council and was on the dean’s search committee when Danny Lattin was hired.
A family of graduates
They’ve been able to see SDSU through three perspectives—alumni, advocates and parents. Oldest child Molly, a University of South Dakota business management graduate, and son Murphy are both 2015 pharmacy graduates. Madelin is a 2016 English graduate. Marlee is a 2018 psychology graduate. Miranda, a music education major, graduated this spring.
This youngest child, Mitchell, will be a sophomore at Redfield High School.
The Macks said they didn’t overtly steer their offspring to their alma mater.
“I think they saw it through our eyes. We talked about our college experience and they wanted to have that, too. We still had relationships with our pharmacy professors. It speaks for itself, if you pay attention. Our kids wanted the same thing from their college experience. We feel really blessed that it turned out that way.
“Every one of those kids made their mark at SDSU. I think they all tried to make whatever they did better. They wanted to leave it better than when they got there,” Cari Mack said.
Some things don’t change
Whether it was their lives as students in the 1980s or as parents of current students, Cari Mack said they have always seen the university make a “personal connection with kids. Part of that is a South Dakota thing. Even faculty that come from a foreign country appreciate that.
“The quality of the graduates is very good. It’s a rigorous program. That’s why the (NAPLEX) pass rate is so high. There is expanding research because of the quality of the building and other programs.
“Having a previous pharmacy professor (former dean Dennis Hedge) as provost is really nice, too. Pharmacy is really unique. You like to have someone who knows the inner workings of your college in the position of vice president of academic affairs,” Mack said.
She expects qualities like academic rigor and small-state friendliness will be a part of the university when their grandchildren are eligible for the Mack Family Scholarship.