When Carol Ammon ’73 retired as CEO of Endo Pharmaceuticals in 2007, she redefined the term. “Retirement” from the company she created brought with it a comparable workload, thanks in part to her active participation on several nonprofit boards of directors. She even joined a few new ones.
Then she decided to go to medical school.
Ammon is quick to note that she enjoys her work on behalf of nonprofits, hospitals, and universities (she has pared down those commitments to four), but says she wanted to do something “more hands-on and meaningful one on one.” For Ammon, a former research and development scientist at DuPont, the medical field seemed a promising way to do that.
“It’s so rewarding to be able to help somebody when they’re sick and vulnerable,” she notes.
So at the age of 65, Ammon became a student once again. To acquire a medical degree, she was required to re-take several of the science courses she had completed as a biology major 40 years earlier at CCSU. As she worked her way through general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, among other pre-requisites, Ammon learned of an accelerated program in nursing offered by the Jefferson College of Nursing at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. A medical degree, on the other hand, would be a seven-year process.
“I couldn’t waste time at my age,” she notes. “As I was going through this, I thought do
I really want to do this and do I want to be away from my spouse this much, because it would be a full-time endeavor.”
Ammon, ever the scientist, took a more practical approach to the next phase of her life and enrolled in Jefferson’s one-year Full-time Accelerated Coursework Track in Nursing. She graduated in May, adding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to her CV, which also includes an MBA from Adelphi University, successful completion of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University, a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from Adelphi, and an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Delaware.
True to form, Ammon chose a residency program shorter than many — just four months — on a medical-surgical unit at Christiana Hospital in Delaware. By January of this year, she was ready for her first mission as a nurse and headed to Haiti with a group from the University of Notre Dame.
Ammon’s next assignment will take her to a mission that provides free care to indigent patients near the Mexican border in California. Ammon lives in California for most of the year (she also spends a few months a year at her home in Delaware) and plans to begin volunteering when she returns to the Golden State in November.
Going forward, she is considering additional domestic missions with the Red Cross. As a new member of the American Nurses Association, Ammon also is interested in crafting healthcare policy, drawing on her years in pharmaceutical R&D and business management and her hospital-board experience.
Ammon might even delve into politics, a field she says she enjoys “tremendously,” noting she once considered a run for governor of Delaware.
“I love the advocacy role and learning what’s important to different people; I can see myself finding different candidates who support these causes and doing fundraisers at my house and helping them in any way I can to get them elected,” Ammon explains.
A CCSU success story
Ammon credits her parents for her drive and concern for the welfare of others. CCSU, she says, gave her the tools to apply those values and forge a path to success.
“Central was so instrumental in shaping the rest of my life,” she says. “It’s an environment that is just the right size to allow students
to be part of a real community. The faculty encouraged me, took an interest in me, spent the time with me academically, and really mentored me and gave me a certain rigor to apply myself. The experience here gave me that feeling of ‘Yes I can. I can do this.’”
Ammon suspects her fellow Blue Devils have reaped similar benefits.
“I encourage alumni to recognize that whatever success they’ve had in their careers, they should look back and say Central was a big piece of that and remember this is a great institution that they should consider supporting,” she says. “Maybe that support is coming to give a lecture, or participating in the Alumni Association, or maybe it is a contribution.”
For Ammon, she feels fortunate to have the means to support scholarships and programming at CCSU because of the opportunities they provide.
“Scholarships are the most important thing for the kids,” she says. “Greatness happens across every socioeconomic group, every cultural group, every ethnic group. So many people work hard their entire life and never get that pot at the end of the rainbow. I feel my job is to give it back to the people who, by chance, didn’t get everything that people who are more fortunate get.”
“Besides, how happy is it to give money away?” she adds. “It’s wonderful, and I think that anybody who could, would.”
Ammon herself donated $8 million from her eponymous foundation in 2011 to fund scholarships at CCSU. In gratitude, the University named its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences after Ammon. The college’s future home at Willard-DiLoreto is under construction and expected to open in January. Ammon hopes to be on campus for the grand opening; so far, she likes what she sees.
“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” she says. “Every student has to pass through that school at least once for a class, and I like that there will be lots of opportunities for students to take advantage of support services. It creates an environment where all the benefits of being in higher learning can be realized because you have that protection around you to make it the best experience possible.”
A recent visit to campus bolstered Ammon’s confidence in CCSU’s prospects despite changing economics in the state. She attributes much of that assurance to President Zulma R. Toro’s leadership.
“I really like what Dr. Toro has to say, and the way she recognizes where the student body is going, how demographics are changing, and how she’s making certain that we’re providing the best environment for everybody to be successful in whatever way that means for current students,” Ammon says. “It means a lot to see your college prosper, and I think under her leadership she’ll take it in a great direction.”