This year marks the 50th anniversary of Phi Lambda Sigma (PLS), the pharmacy leadership society whose mission is and continues to be to demonstrate exemplary leadership skills and service to the profession of pharmacy and mentorship to others. PLS was founded in March 1965 by student pharmacist Charlie Thomas and faculty advisor C. DeWitt Blanton, PhD, at the Auburn University School of Pharmacy. After a 2-year probationary period, the Auburn University Student Senate granted the first charter on October 3, 1967. With the deep belief that leaders needed recognition for their contributions to pharmacy practice, the Alpha chapter was formed. The society was established to promote positive, lasting encouragement and networking for leaders across all spectrums of pharmacy. In the 1970s, the fledgling organization boasted five chapters. Years later, the society is now 118 chapters and thousands of members strong. The organization continues to grow and is comprised of the same pillars of leadership, service, and professionalism. In 1968, the name “Phi Lambda Sigma” was registered with the U.S. Bureau of Patents and Copyrights and an official key was designed by the Balfour Company. As the society started to grow, the fraternity aimed to springboard its notoriety with a small, initial budget of just $414 in its account. With a presence at APhA Annual Meetings, the society began to grow in recognition. After several moves, the organization has made its final transition to its current home at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Pharmacy.
To recognize initiation into the society, each member receives an official key pin that bears a mortar and pestle, the symbol of the ethical pharmacist. Inscribed with the Greek letters Phi Lambda Sigma, the pestle is surrounded by a wreath of laurel representing leadership and wisdom. The society uses the colors green and gold, with green symbolizing strength and gold symbolizing fineness of character. At induction, members recite the society’s belief: “Just as the lighting of many candles from one does not diminish the light of the initial flame, so too adding other leaders to our circle does not diminish but rather strengthens the existing members so that, together, we can strengthen and shed light on our profession.” It is the belief of the society that leadership inspires and ignites leadership in others. The society does not exist to find followers, but to recognize and promote further leadership.
Executive Director Mary Euler, PharmD, has worked for PLS for 15 years and has been re-appointed since 2000. During her tenure, PLS has enjoyed incredible progress, not only in numbers but also in services provided and the recognition of the society by schools and colleges of pharmacy. The society has added programs and recognitions such as the Leadership Challenge; Advisor; Chapter of the Year; Alumnus; and Founder’s Awards. More recently, the society has also started making inroads into international membership opportunities. “Don’t be afraid to serve others through leadership,” said Euler. “It is a big commitment but the personal and professional reward is worth the time and energy. It takes all of us to move our profession forward and provide the services we pledge to our patients.”
After 50 years, PLS is still launching new approaches to leadership. Expansion into international pharmacy programs and interprofessional leadership development are just two of the initiatives being considered for the future. An exciting year lies ahead, as the society will celebrate its progress by sharing stories from members that inspire and ignite further innovation, achievement, and guidance. PLS will share memorable historical moments, important upcoming events, and specific updates through www.philambdasigma.org and its newsletter, The Laurel. Mark your calendars to join PLS in March at the 2015 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego for its annual House of Delegates meeting and 50th anniversary banquet. PLS invites the profession of pharmacy to join in its celebration of leadership recognition and development and to begin the journey to advance positive change over the next 50 years.