Frank DiGangi's dream was to become an engineer, but after he applied for an engineering scholarship at a prestigious New York school and didn't get it, the door to a career in pharmacy opened.
He had been working at a drugstore while attending high school in New Jersey during the Great Depression. His boss promised to pay his first year of college tuition if he went to Rutgers to study pharmacy. He did.
Then it was off to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he earned a master's degree, and finally to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a doctorate in the early 1940s. He stayed there to teach and serve as associate dean of the College of Pharmacy.
"Dr. DiGangi was an extraordinary friend of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, pharmacy students and all of Minnesota pharmacy for close to 70 years," said associate professor Bruce Benson.
DiGangi died from complications of pneumonia March 2 at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, where he was staying with his daughter Janet Greenwood. He was 92.
He taught and advised more than 2,000 students during his tenure at the U, retiring in 1985. His specialty was medicinal chemistry and providing keen advice to students who had questions on the admission process or on selection of classes.
"He was a good administrator and the backbone of the college," said Prof. Yusuf Abul-Hajj.
Although known as a tough instructor, DiGangi was committed to his students' success, and kept in contact with many of them after graduation, said his other daughter, Ellen Hall, of Northfield, Vt.
"He loved teaching and he loved his students," she said. "He was proud of them," and during the summer would often stop into pharmacies across Minnesota to keep in touch with them and the trade, Hall said.
DiGangi's displayed his affinity for the U by often wearing his maroon and gold hat. He served on numerous committees, had season tickets to basketball, football and hockey games and was a fixture at the Campus Club, on the top floor of Coffman Memorial Union, where he frequently ate lunch and played pool. He was a member of the school's curling club and an avid golfer who played many rounds at the U's golf course.
"The University was his life," Hall said.
He was promoted from faculty member to associate dean of students in 1969 and took on the role of associate dean for administration in 1978. In his leadership role, he chatted up the College of Pharmacy and promoted pharmacy while appearing at high school career days. He also co-authored several editions of the college textbook, "Quantitative Pharmaceutical Chemistry."
DiGangi also was a "tremendous leader" as president of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association from 1971 to 1972, said its current executive vice president, Julie Johnson.
He served as an officer in the Navy during World War II. He also was an active member at the Church of Corpus Christi in Roseville.
In addition to his two daughters, he is survived by a sister, Elsie Dykes, of Fair Lawn, N.J., five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A wake was held March 5 in Connecticut.