University of South Carolina

Biographical Information on Mr. William P. Kennedy and Mrs. Lou W. Kennedy

A Tale of Two South Carolinians…

It took a chance meeting at a winning South Carolina football game (over Georgia) for Bill and Lou Kennedy to meet. In early 2000, their fate was sealed; these two proud South Carolinians began a prosperous union in both business and life. Their story begins here:

Bill Kennedy, a native of South Carolina, graduated from the USC College of Pharmacy in 1966 and moved to Florida in 1967. He obtained his Florida pharmacy license that same year, and immediately began his career as a retail pharmacist for Webb’s Fabulous Pharmacies in Orlando. As a pharmacist and later a regional manager for Webb’s, it became apparent that the business of pharmacy was to be his passion. By age 30, he managed to purchase the first of many businesses, Thayer’s Colonial Pharmacy, a Rexall drug store. Kennedy thrived as an independent pharmacist, as he chose to stray from the era’s emphasis on big box retailers. His business acumen truly began to blossom at Thayer’s, and his unique style of marketing, coupled with patient care and unusual sales avenues (he actually compounded creams for several professional sports franchises out of his Orlando pharmacy) paved the way for the growth that was to follow.

As Medicare grew in the 1970s, Kennedy realized a need for the delivery of drugs and medical equipment directly to the homebound. Subsequently, a new role in the industry was identified, as that of a mail-order pharmacist. To meet the needs of homebound Floridians, Kennedy expanded his Thayer’s Colonial Pharmacy into a statewide chain. In the 1980s, with underserved rural communities as his focal point, the company expanded across the United States.

The next evolution, RoTech Medical Corp., was formed to become a publicly traded company in 1985. During the explosive growth of the late ‘80s and early 1990s, RoTech added more than 700 locations throughout the U.S., serving hundreds of thousands of Americans. By 1997, RoTech was sold for approximately $1 billion. RoTech’s success was a clear example of innovative business principles, working in tandem with the practice of pharmacy.

With the triumph of RoTech, the 1990s ushered in a new opportunity for Kennedy, and he realized his dream of becoming a pharmaceutical manufacturer. He purchased a small company named Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. By 1997, it was validated as an approved FDA manufacturing facility. Nephron currently produces generic respiratory medications. With a capacity of more than 100 million doses monthly, it is able to serve patients throughout the world. Nephron utilizes blow fill seal technology (Nephron is only one of four such facilities in the U.S.); employs more than 550, and its products are made available in every pharmacy and hospital. As a result of Kennedy’s 40-plus years in healthcare, he was invited twice during these years to testify as an expert witness on Capitol Hill.

A key ingredient of Nephron’s success is Lou Kennedy. She is also a graduate of USC, having earned a bachelor’s in journalism in 1984. In late 2001, Lou Kennedy set out to recruit, develop and train a national sales force to market Nephron’s products to hospitals. Over the next six years the sales and marketing efforts grew to encompass a broader customer base.

Never shying away from a challenge, this “dynamic duo” simultaneously carved out time to create and sell another pharmacy business while they championed Nephron’s achievements. Home Oxygen 2 U was created to offer respiratory equipment and medications to patients in their homes. As a unique innovation, they utilized technology such as TV advertising and telemarketing to reach consumers, rather than a traditional marketing sales force. Home Oxygen 2 U was sold in less than two years for $60 million.

By 2007, Bill Kennedy transitioned into the role of strategic consultant, and Lou Kennedy took the reins as president and CEO. During these years Nephron’s sales have grown more than 300 percent, and the company has undergone a multi-million dollar expansion. As such, Nephron is well positioned to compete against other large generic pharma competitors such as Mylan and Watson Pharmaceuticals.

Recently, during a conversation with University President Harris Pastides and Joe DiPiro, executive dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, their desire to promote their alma mater was discussed. A donation to support the SCCP was suggested. It was their aspiration to incorporate their expertise in science and business to develop a curriculum that would embody both these fields of study. The ability to educate students on how they might succeed in many different areas of pharmacy practice became their focus, and from this, The Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center was conceived. It will be the first of its kind to foster collaboration in an interdisciplinary setting. The final goal for this project is for the SCCP to become the No. 1 ranked College of Pharmacy in the nation!

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 09/17/10 @ 11:15 AM | Updated: 09/17/10 @ 11:18 AM | Permalink