Travel fund encourages bonds, friendships

Through shared experiences and classes and spending many hours together, Virginia Commonwealth University students often build lasting friendships with their classmates.

Jay “Tommy” Thompson III (B.S. ’80) and Jonathan “Jon” Roberts (B.S. ’79) developed a friendship in pharmacy school that continues today.

Thompson is the owner and pharmacist in charge at Mechanicsville Drug Store, an independent community pharmacy in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Roberts serves as president of CVS Caremark Pharmacy Services, the largest pharmacy health care provider in the U.S.

The two recently made gifts to the Roberts-Thompson Travel Fund, which encourages students to forge bonds with their classmates and to learn more about their profession.

The fund, originally established by Thompson in 2006, provides financial assistance for Pharm.D. students who attend conferences and conventions to gain experience in the field.

“I had really great experiences at these national conventions,” Thompson said. “It’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss and when you don’t have the money, it can be impossible.”

Traveling and bonding with classmates, Roberts added, is just as valuable as the conferences.

“The travel fund is a great way to support students,” he said. “I put myself through pharmacy school, and any help you can get is always appreciated. College days are the most formative years of your life, and you may not be able to afford those opportunities to support your career development. I feel very fortunate to be in a position to give back and help others.”

The Roberts-Thompson Travel Fund annually provides 20 travel awards of $250 each, which are available to Pharm.D. students through VCU chapters of five national pharmacy organizations and the Kappa Psi pharmaceutical fraternity.

“The award is intended to promote camaraderie,” Thompson said. “When we were students, we’d get three or four people together to share costs and to share the experience.”

Sharing the travel and conference experience leads to valuable career networking, said Victor Yanchick, Ph.D., former dean of the VCU School of Pharmacy.

“When students see [at national meetings] what’s happening in their professions, they are preparing themselves for a career, not just a job, and in order to have a career that’s successful, they must have a network of professionals who can mentor and guide them along the way,” he said.

“For Tommy and Jon to give back like this is tremendous. I admire them for what they’ve done and for what they’ve accomplished in their own careers.”

To learn more about the VCU School of Pharmacy, contact Ellen Carfagno, director of development, at (804) 828-3016 or