College benefactor Barbara Rippy awarded Order of the Palmetto

Roby Hill
January 18, 2024
Barbara Rippy with Phil the Pill
Barbara Rippy with Phil the Pill during the Grand Opening of MUSC’s new pharmacy facility last April.

Whatever other surprises her 90th birthday has in store for Mrs. Barbara Rippy, it has already delivered quite a birthday present.

During the 125th session of the South Carolina General Assembly, the Senate and the House both passed resolutions congratulating and honoring her on the occasion of her birthday on January 28, 2024. But that wasn’t all.

On behalf of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, she has been awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’ highest civilian honor. The Order of the Palmetto recognizes a lifetime of achievement and service by South Carolina residents and native South Carolinians. Mrs. Rippy joins MUSC College of Pharmacy alumnus Frank Brunson '76 as the most recent recipients of this illustrious designation.

“There are precious few who can claim Mrs. Rippy’s kind of lifetime achievement,” said Philip D. Hall, dean of the MUSC College of Pharmacy. “She has been part of the MUSC pharmacy family for more than 60 years, and we’ve really been blessed by her spark, her wisdom, and her generosity.”

Mrs. Rippy was nominated for the Order of the Palmetto by Sen. Shane Martin, whose district includes her hometown of Union County.

“We’re very grateful to Governor McMaster, Senator Martin, Speaker Murrell Smith, Senator Harvey Peeler, and everyone in the General Assembly for recognizing Mrs. Rippy’s remarkable achievements,” Hall said.

Starting in 1969, she and late husband Bobby Gene Rippy ’63, owned and operated Smiths Drug Store in Union, S.C. The Rippys became community leaders and benefactors, supporting civic and church organizations as well as sponsoring a Dixie Youth baseball team for 44 years.

They turned Smiths Drug Store into something that meant more to the community than just a place to get prescriptions. “As long as I live, and I’ve got any money, no child will go without their medication” was Bobby Gene Rippy’s maxim. They stuck by it, and when they closed, they were still owed $75,000. “But we didn’t miss one penny of that money,” Mrs. Rippy said.

They retired in 2004 and continued to be vibrant and active parts of Union civic life, participating in and supporting more than a half dozen organizations. Bobby Rippy passed away in 2012.

In addition to her considerable contributions in the Upstate, Mrs. Rippy created a legacy for the Rippy name in the Lowcountry when she donated $1 million to support the MUSC College of Pharmacy. As MUSC built a new pharmacy facility, a grateful college named the Bobby Gene ’63 and Barbara Harter Rippy Lecture Hall in honor of that support. More recently, she established an endowed scholarship designed to be the college’s first full-ride scholarship.

“At age 90, she still breaks new ground,” Hall said. “For someone who has given so much, it is great to see her get back this special recognition. Happy birthday, Mrs. Rippy!”