Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.
Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.
“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”
Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.
He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.
During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.
He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.
One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.
Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.
Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.
“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”
Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.
“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”
At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.
Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”
“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.
“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”
Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.
Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.
“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”
Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”
Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.
By Sydney Slotkin DuPriest
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