Celebrating Black History: Mary Munson Runge (1928-2014)


Special Note: During the Month of February, Black History Month, will be highlighting African Americans who have contributed significantly during the profession.

Mary Munson Runge was raised in a small town in Louisiana, where her father was a physician that owned the town’s first pharmacy.  He was one of the most successful businessmen in the town, and used his wealth to help the poor.  Runge and her father would help by covering the costs of patients who couldn’t afford their medication; these fulfilled her and her father’s passion for helping the poor and giving back to those in need.

During the 1960s, Runge worked in Oakland, California, an economically depressed region. She chose to work there because it offered possibilities to help others. It allowed her to counsel patients, reach out and educate the populations who needed it the most.  She worked part-time which allowed time for political and leadership opportunities.  Through this work Runge received widespread recognition and awards, receiving honorary doctorates of pharmacy.  She was appointed on many federal programs, such as the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

In 1979, Runge became the first woman and African Amercian to serve as the President of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).  As president, she sought out to increase membership among woman, minority, and employee pharmacists. She also wanted to strengthen the bond between the association and the state pharmacy associations.

“The reason I was the first black and the first woman [president of APhA] is that I was the first black and the first woman to have ever run for that office.” –Mary Munson Runge

Maine, during this time, was a hostile environment for new pharmacists due to fears that established pharmacists of Maine’s APhA would stomp them out if they made progress in the organization. At the first caucus of the year, Runge declared that the new pharmacists organization needed to rise from the underground because of the decision by Maine to welcome all pharmacists, because regardless of your family history, genetic makeup, or age they all have important work to do.

“She didn’t pull any punches, and she wasn’t afraid to take on the issues, but always with a sense of humor.” –Lawrence Brown, PharmD, PhD

During her time in office, many pharmacists felt like she welcomed them to the profession and motivated them to advance their careers and leaderships. She wanted to inspire the disenfranchised, which she did in her time during and before her presidency.


Collins, S. (2012, July 31). Runge devotes storied career to the disenfranchised. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from American Pharmacists Association: http://www.pharmacist.com/runge-devotes-storied-career-disenfranchised

Kappa Epsilon. (2014, January 8). Mary Munson Runge 1928-2014. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from Kappa Epsilon: Professional Pharmacy Fraternity: http://www.kappaepsilon.org/in-remembrance/mary-munson-runge-1928-2014/

Contributed by: Caleb Kennedy, P2, Class of 2018

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