News & Stories
January 11, 2023

Life Happens

by Karilon L. Rogers


Brand-new 47-year-old Berry graduate Paul Bryant is a registered pharmacist and a successful businessman. He’s the major holder in five pharmacies across Northwest Georgia and a minor partner in one, as well as a real estate manager and occasional developer. Funny thing is, he never really wanted to be or do any of these things. Except graduate from Berry.

So how does a guy who started out at Berry in 1993 as a music major only to make an immediate left turn toward a Ph.D. in chemistry so he can research pharmaceuticals even though he had absolutely NO interest in handling them as a pharmacist – let alone owning a pharmacy – end up where Paul Bryant (22C) happily is today? As the adage goes: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

To understand, you really must start at the beginning of his Berry story.

Berry roots
Born into a lower-income family in Chatsworth, Georgia, Bryant was attending middle school when he ran smack-dab into Tim Howard (82C), an excellent teacher who soon would change his young student’s life forever.

When I was in high school, Tim contacted me about Berry,” Bryant remembered. “I originally wanted to be a music major, and Tim introduced me to all the right people. With his help, I ended up with a full music scholarship, which I needed.

As life would have it, Bryant quickly discovered – in six short weeks – that majoring in music was not for him. Ready to give up his scholarship and leave Berry, he met with Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS), then dean of academic services and now deceased, who, rather than sending him packing, worked with him to secure a partial scholarship in his second area of interest, chemistry.

Bryant immediately fell further in love with the subject and focused on a chemistry degree so he could then get a Ph.D. and become a researcher in pharmaceuticals.


"I just wanted to have a Berry degree.
Berry gave me so much."

— Paul Bryant


At Berry, he worked in the theatre department building sets, at the gate house for campus safety and then in the chemistry labs, thanks, he said, to Dr. Gary Breton, who in 1994 was in his first year at Berry as an assistant professor and today is Callaway professor of organic chemistry. Eventually, Bryant became a tutor for other chemistry students and earned a spot in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Alabama. All these positions helped keep his student loan debt manageable and his skills base growing. He also took electives over the summer at Dalton State College and senior-level chemistry classes his junior year at Berry.

With graduation on the horizon, Bryant changed course again, this time motivated by a comment that he could get a degree in pharmacy and make a good living while working on his Ph.D. This led him to transfer to the University of Georgia after his junior year even though he insists, “I had NO intention of being a pharmacist!

After graduating from UGA in 1999 with a B.S. in pharmacy, Bryant was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was ready to head to the Tar Heel State when a family situation put everything on hold. Instead of starting his program, he worked full time as a pharmacist in Atlanta while also doing as much relief work as possible at pharmacies in his home area of Northwest Georgia so he could pay off student loans.

I saw how a dozen different pharmacies were run,” he said. “What worked well, what didn’t. Although I had NO plan to be a businessman!

One thing after another, life kept happening.

A Berry degree in 2022
The Ph.D. never materialized. Bryant never became a researcher. But he did discover he loves working as a pharmacist. Not that he gets to do much of it these days.

“I’m 95% businessman today,” he revealed. “I only get to work at the bench to cover vacations.”

That evolution began in 2000, when Bryant became part owner of a pharmacy in Dalton (in which he sold ownership long ago). Three years later, he established his first Living Well Pharmacy in Chatsworth. Now he has three in town, one located in a shopping center he developed. More recently, he has become a major holder in two more Northwest Georgia pharmacies, Rocky Face Pharmacy and Calhoun Drug Co., as well as a minority owner of Magnolia Pharmacy in LaFayette.

He has 58 employees in the pharmacies in which he holds ownership, and his attention is fully focused on the vital role he has in supporting them. His time is taken up with payroll, insurance credentialing and staff management, as well as bookkeeping.

That’s a very full plate, so why add a return to college on top of it?

“It was a totally personal decision for me,” Bryant said. “I just wanted to have a Berry degree. Berry gave me so much.

“I contacted Dr. Breton about five years ago but didn’t follow through. I wasn’t fully committed. But I reached out again in February 2022. I thought it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t care how many classes I had to take. I was going to do it. Dr. Breton reached out to the registrar’s office and asked me for permission to access my transcripts. It turned out, with my UGA credits transferring, I only needed three classes.”

Bryant took those three classes last summer: Introduction to Christianity, Theatre Appreciation and Elementary Statistics, the first two of which he was able to take online.

“The statistics professor’s lectures were available online, so he didn’t require me to attend class either, but I went to as many as I could anyway,” Bryant remembered with a laugh. “I am 47, and I felt so old compared to the other students. And they probably thought I was failing because I missed some of the classes!”

He did not fail and graduated from Berry at the end of the 2022 summer term, nearly three decades after he first arrived on campus.

Bryant could spend an entire day raving about his “new” alma mater and why finishing his Berry degree was so important to him. Mostly, however, it came down to his professors in the chemistry department, notably Breton and the retired Drs. Larry McRae (60C) and Charles Earnest.

“They really motivated me, prepared me,” Bryant explained. “They really poured so much into every student. Research was there, which is important, but they always put students first. I honestly felt genuine sadness when I left to go to UGA. But I felt prepared and confident when I got there because Berry prepared me well.”

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