It was 1977, and Greg Guyer was attending Athens Academy. He loved math but was fairly indifferent to science.
Charles Koelsche changed that.
The 10th grade chemistry teacher was an alumnus of the University of Southern California and a former science education professor at the University of Georgia. His enthusiasm for science was infectious, and Guyer credits Koelsche as the person who inspired his 30-plus years in the pharmaceutical industry.
“He taught me how everything is made up of chemicals, molecules, and a finite list of elements—all that good stuff—and I just loved it,” says Guyer BS ’83. “Chemistry helped explain how a lot of things worked, like chemical reactions and why things were certain colors or why things tasted or smelled a certain way. It explained things that I never really appreciated.”
After graduating with a chemistry degree from UGA, Guyer headed to Washington, D.C., where he worked on research for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a decade while getting a doctorate in analytical chemistry. His boss was always in the lab and suggested Guyer might enjoy leading teams of researchers in an administrative capacity.
As director of the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs, his teams grew from five people to 100. Along the way, Guyer continued doing scientific research on the side.
When a senior director position at the pharmaceutical company Merck opened up in 1994, he jumped at the opportunity. Guyer spent the next 20 years working his way up, eventually becoming a senior vice president and managing over 6,500 employees. Four years ago, he took a position with Bristol-Myers Squibb and hasn’t looked back.
“My favorite part of being in the pharmaceutical industry is having an opportunity to bring products to market that truly save lives and improve people’s quality of life,” says Guyer, now the global head of operations at the company. “Actually watching and listening to patients talk about how our products changed their lives, that’s the best part.”
With his impressive background in the pharmaceutical industry, Guyer was asked to serve on the University of Georgia Research Foundation, a position he values immensely.
“The university has always been at the foundation of everything I’ve done,” he says, “and it’s been a tremendous experience to see how many smart people we have at the University of Georgia that are making a difference in the world.”