When Antoinette Scherr graduated from Drexel with a business degree in 1917, she had no idea that 100 years later there would be 17 Drexel Dragons who are her descendants.
Or that there would be a scholarship in her name. Or that one of her granddaughters would serve as a dynamic University leader, who would contribute on the Alumni Board of Governors and the Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; would spearhead Dragons at Work activities; and would serve as a host, panelist and mentor. Patricia McHugh Giordano ("Patty" to one and all) received her BS in chemical engineering at Drexel in 1988, three years after her sister Kathleen marched for the same degree. Thanks to several formative co-op experiences, Giordano knew that the pharmaceutical industry offered many opportunities for her to help advance healthcare, and she quickly began her career at Merck & Co., Inc.
Medical degree opens new doors
By 1996, Giordano had also earned a medical degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine — an event she celebrated with her grandmother — followed by her Board Certification in Family Medicine. During her residency and five years of family practice, she cared for more than 16,000 patients in the rural communities of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Giordano returned to industry in 2004 at Johnson & Johnson, where she became a leader in supply chain initiatives related to safety surveillance. A 2011 move to the Consumer Products division put her inside a critical remediation operation under an FDA consent decree. More transitions have followed, with her favorite challenges involving exploration of licensing and acquisition opportunities in order to satisfy unmet clinical needs. In her “spare time,” she married and had twin sons.
Inspiring way to honor "Nan Nan Farrell"
Around her 25-year reunion, Giordano learned that she could join with her siblings, mom, aunts, cousins, niece and nephew to create a named scholarship fund to honor her grandmother. This gave rise to the Antoinette Scherr Farrell Endowed Scholarship, which benefits students with financial need with first preference going to chemical engineering majors. Giordano says she loves the idea of a scholarship fund, in part because of her own college experience. "Our parents wanted us to learn responsibility, so I paid for my entire education," she explains. A bounced check from her senior design partner left her with an outstanding bookstore bill for $20. She vividly remembers the night before graduation: "I was literally thinking 'Oh no! I might not be able to graduate!'" Many years later, she says: "If I can do something to help a student in the later part of their education and ease that burden, I believe my grandmother would be proud." Giordano's employer at the time, Johnson & Johnson, provided two-to-one matching funds for her donation, allowing her to triple the impact of her gift. Today she serves as executive director of clinical safety and risk management, product quality, and medical device/combination product vigilance at Merck, where they also match her contributions. "If I can do something to help a student … and ease that burden, I believe my grandmother would be proud."
Tireless commitment from a Co-op Hall of Fame winner
What no one can match is the time and energy Giordano pours into Drexel. According to Lauren Villanueva '04, '09, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations: "Patty is the ultimate connector. She's always an ambassador for us – whether it's expressed in sponsoring co-ops, building her Dragon network at the office, or talking to current or prospective students." No wonder Giordano was elected to the WACE Co-op Hall of Fame in 2018. When asked about the theme of the current Campaign, The Future Is a Place We Make, Giordano says, "It speaks to the fact that most of us alumni are not passengers in life; we're driving. My co-op taught me to drive my career and everything around it."