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The Elixir: A History

By Angela Ung
BS'11; Elixr Historian 2009-2010

Published on March 25, 2021

Elixir 1978What is TheElixir? Someone unfamiliar with the University of the Sciences would assume The Elixir was some mythical potion that kings and queens of ages past ran after, but never achieved. But here at the university, it is fondly known as our very own, humble and modest, literary journal. Now most people, upon seeing the name University of the Sciences and then the term “literary journal”, would be confused as to the connection. However, more than any other university, it is perhaps even more important to promote intellectual work independent of the sciences in a school based primarily in the sciences and healthcare. 

At least these were the thoughts of the students who first approached one Professor Richard H. Fleu. Agreeing that a gap in the tapestry of the university, known then as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, needed to be filled, Professor Fleu published the first edition of The Elixir on May 22, 1963, under the Department of Languages and Social Studies. All this was done without an official Elixir staff of any kind outside of Professor Fleu. 

For the first three years, from ’63 to ’65, the publication was consistent. However, after those first three honeymoon years, the tradition of spotty publications would begin. Under Professor Fleu The Elixir released at least 13 known publications, all archived at the J.W. England Library on the third floor. According to Dan Flanagan, Serials Assistant (and longtime staff member at the J.W. England Library at USciences), they are all very important to the university, as shown by the fact that they currently sit under lock and key. Or perhaps it is out of sight, out of mind? After all, until I (Angela) went looking in 2009, no one currently and actively associated with The Elixir knew when it was born.

Although the timeline is sketchy, Professor Fleu would turn over the reins to The Elixir after roughly 21 years. The man honored as the new advisor was one Professor Robert Manbeck. Under Professor Manbeck, The Elixir would greet its 25th birthday and release five publications. 

In the intervening years between its birth and now, The Elixir has seen numerous changes in staff and spotty release. At times, it has even seemed to die off, if only because it went 8 years without a known publication from 1996 to 2004. So what does it say about The Elixir that it has survived years without publication to reemerge again, like a phoenix in rebirth years later? Perhaps it proves that The Elixir is a vital part of USciences. Or maybe it has a support staff that manages to persevere through gargantuan obstacles. Then again, it could be plain luck. 

Elixir staff members 2006As noted, The Elixir seemed awfully quiet from ’96 to 2004. Now, what caused a sudden spur in publication? Why leadership transition of course! Our very own Professor Christine Flanagan took on the mantle of Elixir Advisor. Under her leadership, The Elixir was published yearly, missing only a 2005 edition. Even when she went on maternity leave, the student staff rallied and published a Spring 2011 edition despite financial, communication, and organizational problems. 

As of 2021, The Elixir celebrates its 58th birthday, and as with all aging organizations, traditions have developed. Perhaps one of the most significant traditions of TheElixir began with Fleu’s first edition and I would even claim it is vital to The Elixir’s continued existence. What tradition is this? Why, the age-old tradition of publishing student work commandeered from academic classes being taught by the current Elixir advisor. (Prof. Flanagan claims to apologize, but she continues this practice.)

Throughout its history, The Elixir has survived being lost in the annals of the University’s history and it will no doubt continue to prosper. Will it hibernate in the years to come? That all depends on the staff and student population at hand, but without a doubt, it will come back time and time again, as it has done in years previous. If only because it continues to fill a niche not filled by another organization. And no matter how science and healthcare focused the school and student population remains, there is a place inside everyone that needs to be creatively expressed and deserves a place to be showcased. That is what The Elixir provides.

Categories: News, Students, Campus, History