Pharmacy professor remembered for teaching and mentoring students

Professor Emeritus Donald Y. Shirachi

Professor Emeritus Donald Y. Shirachi

The life of Professor Emeritus Donald Y. Shirachi ’60 can be characterized by his relentless pursuit of knowledge and steadfast support of pharmacy students. He died April 21 at the age of 90.

Shirachi taught at Pacific for more than two decades. Colleagues fondly remember him as an educator who cared deeply about those aspiring to be pharmacists.

“In addition to his years of teaching, Dr. Shirachi was a steadfast supporter of our students through scholarships,” said Berit Gundersen, dean of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy. “His impact was so profound, one of his former students established two endowed scholarships in his honor. Although he may be gone, I am comforted to know his legacy will continue.”

Frank Roscoe is the graduate who started the endowed scholarships in 2016.

At age 10, Shirachi and his family, along with many other Japanese-American families, were detained in internment camps during World War II. After the war, his family returned to its home in Watsonville, where he finished high school. After graduating, he served in the United States Navy.

Shirachi earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from University of the Pacific in 1960, his master’s in pharmacology from University of California, San Francisco, in 1965 and his Doctor of Philosophy in pharmacology from Purdue University in 1968. After completing a United States Public Health postdoctoral research fellowship at UC San Francisco, he joined the Pacific faculty in 1971.

He taught at Pacific until 1993. In recognition of his years teaching and mentoring students, Shirachi was awarded the Order of Pacific, the university’s highest honor.

Students and faculty who interacted with him over the years remember him as an attentive listener and keen researcher.

Shirachi’s research was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for almost a decade to investigate the carcinogenic potential of arsenic in drinking water. He also extensively researched the use of air pressure to raise the level of oxygen in a patient’s body for therapeutic purposes.

“Dr. Shirachi played a vital role in the development of the school’s research and graduate training,” said Professor Emeritus James “Jim” Blankenship. “He started and directed the graduate seminar series. Many alumni indicate that his class was among the most important in the development of their careers.”