In honor of Women’s History Month last year, Touchmark launched a three-year initiative to identify and recognize exceptional female residents who defied the odds in their professional and personal lives to pursue opportunities that were historically off-limits for women. Please enjoy the story of Beverly Carpentier, our third feature of 2021.
Please tell us about your professional background.
I graduated as the only woman in my class, and we had three toddlers when that happened. I wasn’t married when I started out at Idaho State University Pharmacy College in 1954, but about three years into my studies and schooling, I got married, we had three children, and then I returned to school and finished in 1962. It took me a while to get my education.
I did my internship there in Pocatello, and then we moved to Boise, Idaho, where I also worked for a while at Skagg’s Pharmacy at their two locations. We got some help at home so I could work, which worked out very well. Later, I quit my job to take care of my family for a little while, but the children got older and were able to fend for themselves a bit better, so I went back to work. I also worked alongside my son for a time as he was fulfilling his pharmacy internship requirements at Smith’s Food and Drug.
I always loved pharmacy and working with people.
When we got our COVID-19 vaccine shot, there was a young pharmacy intern who is in his fourth year of school who was giving the shot, and he knew I had been a pharmacist who is now retired, so he asked, “What would be your advice?” I thought that was very sweet of him to ask. I said, “As far as I’m concerned, I always loved working with people, and I hope you grow to love your job and can really help people because you’re doing it one of the very best ways you can.”
I enjoy talking to young people who help us out here at Touchmark, and one of my first questions to them is always, “What’s your plan?”
I’m very happy I’ve been able to serve in any way I could because one of my biggest goals was to help people. That was very satisfying for me.
I hear you were the only woman in your graduating class.
That’s right. Jim Johnston (Life Enrichment/Wellness Director at Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village) recently told me he found my picture in the yearbook from 1962, and he said he was just floored to see I was the only gal in the class. I think fondly of my graduation, as I was hoisted onto the shoulders of a few of my fellow graduates, which was very memorable.
It seems it was rare then for a woman to return to her studies after becoming a wife and mother.
Yes, I imagine that’s true, and there weren’t all that many women in pharmacy at that time. That said, I worked for a woman who owned a pharmacy with her husband. He had died and she continued the business, and she was older than me. So, even before my time, there were women who graduated and became pharmacists, but still not many.
Things have changed drastically, and that’s a good thing.
What sparked your interest in pharmacy as a career?
I loved science, and I liked the idea of getting into a health care field. My best friend’s father was talking to me one day in high school, and he knew of my interest in science, and he said, “You know, you ought to think about going into pharmacy.” I hadn’t thought about that at that point, but that was the seed. I had worked in an office as a clerk typist and done that sort of thing during summer vacation for spending money, but I didn’t like sitting in an office away from the world.
I much preferred to work with people and science.
Were there any obstacles you faced that you had to overcome during your education or career?
Well, yes. I had three babies when we decided to go back to school. Not too many people would have done that, I don’t think. We were in Seattle after we got married. We had bought a house and were there about a year before we decided it was not the life we wanted, and we were not impressed with Seattle. We packed up our bags and children and came back to Pocatello. We bought a mobile home in a park that wasn’t too far from the Idaho State campus and found a wonderful gal to help with the children and housework, so I was able to go to school and manage with her help. It was quite an obstacle, but we did it.
My husband graduated in 1964, two years after I did because I had already finished three years of school the first time around, one at Boise State University and two at Idaho State University. I had the option of going back for one year or two, and I opted for one year because they were transitioning to a five-year program, and I wanted to get it done before that happened. It all worked out.
What advice would you give to women entering careers that have historically been held by men?
One of the main things is harassment of any kind. In my day, I didn’t consider it as such. It was more like a kidding-around thing, so I answered back.
I didn’t take offense; I just answered back.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t prepared; it was just natural. I could take it and dish it right back out. There were occasions like in the Chemistry lab where someone would make an offensive comment here and there, but it was rare, and if it happened, that was the way I handled it. I didn’t think about it at the time; it wasn’t until later that I heard about so much of this going on. You eventually learn that it just happens, but you stand your ground. I did have one pharmacist who got a little too cozy, but I just handled it, and there weren’t any future problems. I do think some men have to grow up. If you’re suffering from the relations with men you work with, something has to be done about it. We didn’t have equal pay, but we had good pay, so at the time, it didn’t present as a problem. It was a different time.
I continue to encourage young women to pursue their chosen career, breaking down any barriers in their way. Most of these barriers are due to a lack of faith in ability and determination.
I just hope women can set their goals, work hard, and if you run into any barriers, try to reconcile them and know that you can accomplish your goals.
As long as you really want it and really love the idea of what you’re after, I see no reason why anyone can’t manage to reach their goals.
I always loved working with people and still enjoy visiting with people who are just starting out in their careers and hearing about what they’re doing. It’s always been very interesting to me to learn about people and their unique situations.
What makes you feel passionate and sparks your curiosity these days?
I like to see that they have goals in mind and encourage them if they have even a little spark glowing.
Outside of that, I enjoy our family, and though this COVID thing has been a mess, we’ll get through it. Thank God for science. I’ll toot that horn.
Because of your background in pharmacy, what do you make of the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed so quickly?
It’s fantastic. It’s a lot of hard work, and we have a lot of very talented people who are doing the job. We have cured millions of people over the years with vaccinations, and thank God for vaccines. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here; I can tell you that right now. It’s just amazing that they can do it; that they have the tools, brainpower, and resources to do it, so I’m not surprised by the speed or in any way concerned by it. The only way to stop this thing is with a vaccine, so thank goodness they’ve done what they have.
What would you say to someone wary of getting the vaccine?
Think of the world. Think of other people around you. Think of your family, your cousins, your next-door neighbors, the people you admire. Think of everybody in the world. If you don’t do this, we can’t conquer it. You must get the vaccination. That’s all there is to it. Even if you have a side effect or your arm is sore for two or three days, that’s a sign the vaccine is working. It’s far better to have that than get the disease. It’s proven itself over all these years; that’s why we have so many vaccines now. They save lives!
Any final thoughts to share?
I’ve had a good life. I’m 85 years old now, and I look back at my life and can’t believe it because my mind is 39, but my body says, “Are you kidding me?”
I’ve had a wonderful life, a great husband, wonderful family—I don’t know if you can do much better than that.
Thank you to Beverly for sharing her story with us!