By Karen Angelo
Reflecting on his 30-year career in the pharmaceutical industry, Jerry St. Peter ’89 sees a direct connection between his UMass Lowell experience and his success.
“When I look back on my time at the university, everything I’ve accomplished began there with faculty preparing me to excel and explore my potential,” says St. Peter, a Lowell native who is the cofounder, CEO and a board member of Eyevance Pharmaceuticals, an ophthalmic company based in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The faculty invested in and cared about me. They gave me the confidence to dream. Their commitment to me became my mission to pay it forward and to emulate the same genuine confidence.”
As a health education major, St. Peter connected with Mark Romanowski, a local physician, during an athletic training internship. Romanowski suggested he pursue a career in pharmaceuticals. Soon after graduation, St. Peter landed a sales job with Muro Pharmaceutical Inc., a Tewksbury, Massachusetts, firm owned by local entrepreneur George D. Behrakis. Muro not only propelled St. Peter’s career, but it is where he met his wife, Jamie, who also began her career at Muro. The couple now has three children.
To foster careers in pharmaceutical sciences, specifically in business and marketing, they recently established the St. Peter Family Endowment. Undergraduates in their junior and senior years of the pharmaceutical sciences program can apply for scholarships funded by the endowment.
“We didn’t just want to talk about how important education is to our children, we wanted to show it by helping others achieve an education,” says Jamie. “It’s important to us that our children see us giving back.”
The St. Peters consider themselves fortunate for the connections and opportunities they made in their careers. They have seen the industry evolve and say it has become more demanding and competitive than ever.
“Many people have a desire to work in the pharmaceutical sector but they don’t have the educational foundation or deep knowledge of what it offers,” says Jerry, who serves on the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board. “While a little luck and potential connections are always helpful when getting started, people will go further and see success sooner with a pharmaceutical sciences degree from UMass Lowell. Earning a degree is hard, but hard work pays infinite dividends.”
The only public program of its kind in Massachusetts and one of a few in the nation, the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management option is a perfect fit for students interested in careers that integrate health sciences and business.
Jerry has built and led pharmaceutical companies through his expertise in management, finance, mergers and acquisitions and fundraising. He is passionate about mentoring young, aspiring people, and he takes pride in watching colleagues progress in the industry.
Jamie has a mutual interest in helping people with their professional growth by developing training curriculums for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, teaching sales professionals about disease states, drug delivery and the market in which they sell their products.
“It’s an interesting, fulfilling and exciting career,” she says. “There are many paths you can explore depending on your strengths, including sales, marketing, medical or scientific areas of the field.”
Although they now live in Fort Worth, the St. Peter family travels back to Lowell often to visit Jerry’s family. One such occasion was in 2017, when Jerry was awarded the University Alumni Award for the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.
“Here I was, nearly 30 years after graduating, and the professors and faculty that instilled confidence in me showed up and confirmed their belief in me,” he says. “This caring spirit is still the soul of the university and the reason we started this scholarship.”
Receiving the alumni award was especially meaningful because of his family ties to the university. His mother, Peg, worked at UMass Lowell for many years and his father, also named Jerry, earned his bachelor’s degree here. His sisters, Patty and Ann Margaret, both got master’s degrees at UML.