University of the Sciences alumnus Robert L. McNeil, Jr., P’38, HonDSc’70 passed away on May 20 at the age of 94.
(photos at left: Robert L. McNeil, Jr., P’38, HonDSc’70; Mr. McNeil with University President Philip P. Gerbino and surrounded by family at the dedication of the McNeil Science and Techonology Center in 2006; and as a member of the PCPS basketball team in 1936-37).
"University of the Sciences has lost one of its most accomplished alumni with the passing of our longtime friend Robert McNeil. His ongoing friendship and support of his alma mater is felt in every corner of this institution," said University President Dr. Philip P. Gerbino. “Over the years, I have had the privilege of getting to know Bob McNeil as a friend and mentor. I cannot begin to express the profound impact Bob has made at this university for generations of students. The McNeil family legacy will be forever etched in the annals of University of the Sciences.”
The McNeil legacy began with his grandfather, Robert McNeil (Class of 1876), founder of McNeil Laboratories Inc. McNeil would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and graduate from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1938. He would be affiliated with McNeil Laboratories for 30 years and retire in 1965 after having served as chairman and chief executive officer. Under his leadership, McNeil Laboratories introduced Tylenol in 1955.
A member of the board of trustees from 1961 to 1968, McNeil received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1970 and was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982. He was also given special recognition on the University’s all-millennium team in 2008.
McNeil’s dedication and support for the University have continued with both academic and athletic philanthropy. He is considered one of the University’s Lifetime Givers, a group of the most committed and long-term donors. He was a donor, along with his father and brother of the Robert L. McNeil Sr. Graduate Study and Research Center, as well as the namesake McNeil Athletic Fields. McNeil’s support extended to the founding of the Class of 1938 Scholarship Fund. In 2002, McNeil established a scholarship to honor the contributions of William R. Jones, class of 1942, for Jones’ competence as a division head at McNeil Laboratories. A second scholarship in 2009 came in honor of Jones’ 90th birthday.
In 2006, to recognize his dedication and generosity, the University named its newest science building in McNeil’s honor, the McNeil Science and Technology Center, a 78,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that houses laboratories, classrooms, and lecture space.
At the time of the dedication, McNeil said with sincerity and a bit of humor: “The students are the future of [the University]. The institution is in the hands and minds of the students who will be the discovers of tomorrow. Their discoveries will alleviate pain, but I hope not replace Tylenol, and generally improve the well being of our fellow human beings.”
Most recently, the McNeil Professor of Molecular Medicine and Translational Research was established in his honor and is currently shared in a partnership with The Wistar Institute through its Center for Chemical Biology and Translational Medicine.
“On June 2, we are having a reception to honor the naming of the McNeil Professor,” said Dr. Gerbino. “Now, we will also have occasion to celebrate the life of Robert L. McNeil, Jr.”