Ken Yee became a pharmacist by way of a simple source of inspiration: a pamphlet on careers.
"When I was looking through a career opportunity booklet I realized that the pharmacy profession would allow me to own my own business," Yee said.
He also learned that the profession required knowledge of math and science, subjects he had enjoyed at New York City's Stuyvesant High School.
Yee attended the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, graduating in 1975. He worked in retail pharmacy, where he learned the business end of the trade, then in hospital pharmacy for several years. Finally, after a decade of working for someone else, it was time to strike out on his own. When he did, one success followed the next, and he opened one store after another.
"Now I have six pharmacies and a wholesale business," he said. "Recently, I opened a Chinese restaurant too, just to diversify."
Having achieved so much, Yee decided it was time to give back to UB. He donated $50,000 to name a patient assessment room in the Pharmacy Building.
But his generosity doesn't stop there. Despite ultimately finding success, Yee struggled early on to find internships and employment. He found that many Buffalo employers preferred to hire Western New York natives, since they were more likely to stay in town, while New York City employers didn't want to take a chance on a Buffalo student.
As a result, Yee has made a special effort to provide internship opportunities in New York to University at Buffalo pharmacy students through the school's experiential education program.
"I wanted to give the students, especially the students who live in New York City, a chance to get a job in the city," he said. "I have six pharmacies, so I have quite a few openings for them."
In addition to serving as a preceptor, Yee provides housing for students in an apartment building he owns. Yee said that participating in the experiential education program and offering housing to UB students are part of giving back.
"After all, UB gave me an education that made me what I am today," he said.
Yee has fond memories of studying under Dr. Ho Leung Fung, who was a new UB faculty member in 1973.
"He was a role model for me. He was intelligent, hard working, and from Hong Kong, just like myself," Yee recalled. "I was inspired by his many accomplishments."
Speaking as a successful alumnus, Yee said he would encourage pharmacy students to try out as many job settings as possible, and especially to work in retail pharmacy.
"There, they can learn the regular dispensing of prescriptions, plus the business part," he said.
And if students want to go into business someday, they might consider going to New York and working for Yee himself.
"I'll teach you as much as I can about running a pharmacy," he said.