Now, the 1989 UMKC School of Pharmacy graduate is laying the groundwork to help future scientists interested in following his path.

The Dr. Gene F. Ray Family Scholarship is a new award that he has established at the School of Pharmacy to support graduate students in the Division of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences who, like Ray, have a desire to conduct potentially life-changing research in the pharmaceutical sciences. The award was one of 186 scholarships totalling more than $300,000 that were recognized at the school's annual Pharmacy Achievers event earlier this year.

“I really don’t take credit for any of this,” Ray said. “It’s just that I’m following my mentors’ lead.”

While a graduate student at the School of Pharmacy, Ray worked closely with William Mason, BSP ’41, and Robert Lanman, UMKC faculty members who were both heavily involved in pharmaceutical research and development. When Ray completed his doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry, Mason and Lanman served on the advisory board for his graduate research project that focused on defining the chemistry of an anti-AIDS drug and its pharmacokinetics.

He continued after graduation working for many years with the pair at Kansas City Analytical Service (KCAS), a private, science-based company Mason started that specialized in pharmacokinetics, bioequivalence and pharmaceutical and bioanalytical analysis.

“We brought a significant number of drugs to market. I know it’s well over 150 drugs that KCAS was involved in, either in pre-clinical or clinical trials,” Ray said. “It’s a testament to the pharmacy school of its ingenuity to have an incentive program that allowed someone like Bill and Robert to make a real impact, not only on Kansas City but to our field in general outside of educating young men like myself.”

The men and their families continued to make an impact on the school by establishing scholarship programs: the Robert C. Lanman Graduate Pharmacology Scholarship in 1992 and the William D. Mason Memorial Graduate Scholarship in 2014.

Working with the university advancement team, Ray recently followed suit with a $15,000 donation to create an endowment for his scholarship fund. He also added a percentage of his trust fund to feed into the endowment going forward.

“After Dr. Lanman passed away and I was looking at future retirement, I thought now is perhaps the time that I might consider doing the same thing,” Ray said. “I have an empathy for research. Drug development, obviously, I think is an exciting area. It’s one where there’s a huge amount of global investment. I’m working with companies now that are developing COVID drugs and COVID vaccines. You feel like you’re making a real impact.”

Today, Ray has put retirement on hold and works from his home in Gilbert, Arizona as a senior scientific advisor with Agilex Biolabs, an Australian CRO that provides a full range of bioanalytical, biomarker and toxicology services. His roles have expanded to include technical and business development support, writing and peer review of operating procedures and validation plans, among many others. In addition, he has also actively served on an institutional review board for almost 12 years, reviewing protocols for first in human clinical trials, their design, safety and other informed consents.

“I've been very blessed, having gone to UMKC and receiving these credentials to take this kind of role in drug development,” he said.

Jana Boschert, director of advancement for the School of Pharmacy, said the benefit of Ray’s new scholarship, as well as the those of his mentors, Mason and Lanman, is that those scholarships will live on to support students long into the future.

“My grandson will grow up and can go to the pharmacy school and those scholarships will be here,” she said. “It’s about the eternal lasting of the scholarship that will live on into perpetuity and not only benefit pharmacy students for generations yet to come, but will honor his family as well in the field that he wants to make a difference.

Ray said it’s a way of giving back to the school that he was blessed to attend and build the credentials necessary to succeed in his chosen field.

“That’s a really nice draw, to know that my family’s name will be tethered to the school as long as the university exists,” Ray said.