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When Ken Witzeling was 15, while working in a drug store, his boss, Gordon Gill—one of Wisconsin’s largest coin collectors—gifted Ken an 1864 two-cent piece. Ken had been collecting Lincoln Head pennies, but that coin started the expansion of his collection. In addition to inspiring Witzeling’s passion, Gill was also a mentor who taught Witzeling everything he knew about collecting coins.
“Coin collecting is a personal thing,” says Witzeling. “It’s what you enjoy and what you look for and the different varieties, and it may not mean as much to somebody else.”
Witzeling started collecting in 1939 and continued for 70 years. His collection contained 4,000–5,000 coins and consisted of both American and foreign coinage.
In 2013, Witzeling and his wife donated the collection to the University of Wyoming to create the Kenneth and Elizabeth Witzeling Pharmacy Scholarship endowment. This scholarship will be awarded to year two through year four pharmacy students from Park County, Wyoming, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and demonstrated financial need.
Witzeling came to the University of Wyoming from the University of Wisconsin to obtain his degree in pharmacy. When he graduated in 1951, he was the second class to go through UW’s pharmacy program.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity that we had (at Wyoming),” explains Witzeling. “I enjoyed my time there. We had great instructors and I really came away with a great foundation. It was a way of repaying not only Wyoming but the university for providing me with a great education.
“I had been discharged from Lowry Field at the end of World War II, and I really liked this part of the country. When I heard about Wyoming starting a pharmacy school, I applied.”
After graduation, he took a job at a store in Worland, where he became a partner and worked for 15 years. After selling out, he moved to Powell in 1967 and purchased a store, where he worked until 1989. Wyoming is his home, and he has deep ties to the University of Wyoming. Not only did he obtain his degree from the university, but both of his sons also graduated from UW.
“I still feel that was a very good break in my life when I came out to Wyoming,” says Witzeling. “I had been discharged in Colorado and I liked the West, but Wyoming really gave us a chance when we came out there to the university.”
He hopes to give other pharmacy students the same opportunities by supporting them with scholarships, which were made possible through his passion for collecting coins. Future generations of students will be able to benefit from Witzeling’s hobby and desire to help others.