WSU Applebaum board member creates pharmacy scholarship to honor father's life of service

Gregory Wernette, M.B.A. '92 has been a member of the Board of Visitors at Wayne State University's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for nine years. However, he is not a pharmacist or an alumnus from the college, nor is he associated with any of the health sciences professions.

"I joined the board because of my father," Wernette said. "And my continued involvement with the college inspired me to make a donation honoring him there."

Wernette's father, pharmacist Thane Gerard Wernette, dispensed kindness and prescriptions to the residents of Midland, Michigan, for 58 years. He was also a role model for Wernette and his five siblings before passing away in 2020.

In honor of his father's guidance and commitment to pharmacy, Wernette and his family have established the Thane G. Wernette Scholarship at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to assist students in the Pharm.D. program.

When Thane started at Nugent's Drugs in 1956, the soda fountain was a popular place for neighborhood children to gather. Wernette recalled riding up on his bike, sitting at the counter to enjoy fries and drinks, and seeing his father hard at work.

"He was so invested in patient care, and in a small town like Midland, people would often go to the drugstore first rather than go to the doctor," Wernette said. "Back then, there was no technology checking for drug interactions, and a lot of times, my dad was the last line of defense."

Like father, like son

The work ethic Wernette saw in his father inspired him throughout his 37-year banking career.

With $17 million in capital, Wernette co-founded Level One Bank in 2007. By the time it was sold to a larger banking chain in 2022, the company had grown to $2.5 billion in assets. After assisting in the transition, Wernette retired to focus on other pursuits including volunteering and philanthropy.

"I believe that you're supposed to give your time, talent and treasure," Wernette said. "Being on the board is a way of giving my time and talents. Setting up the scholarship is a way of giving my treasure - to acknowledge my father's efforts and giving throughout 58 years of pharmacy."

Rita Wernette receives a plaque commemorating her husband's pharmacy career at a party during the summer of 2023 to celebrate her birthday.

When his mother Rita Wernette celebrated her 87th birthday in June 2023, Wernette surprised her by telling her about the scholarship and presenting a plaque commemorating her late husband's 58 years in retail pharmacy.

Reflecting on the scholarship, Wernette noted that he and his mother agreed philanthropy was a fitting tribute to a man who always modeled generosity.

"My father gave back in many ways, including serving 43 years as the treasurer of the Pardee Cancer Treatment Fund of Midland, which provides financial assistance for cancer-related medical expenses," Wernette said. "He believed in giving, and when you give, you experience joy and love knowing that you've done good in somebody else's life."

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