Mar 29 2013


L.S. “Sam” Skaggs, whose generous support helped transform the Skaggs School of Pharmacy at The University of Montana into a nationally recognized program, died Thursday, March 21. He was 89. 

Skaggs leaves behind a legacy of achievement, one that includes a retail food-and-drug business empire and continued philanthropy in the promotion of health sciences throughout the country. As founder of the ALSAM Foundation, Skaggs directed more than $11 million to the Skaggs School of Pharmacy at UM, investing in the infrastructure to build a program that is now recognized consistently as one of the top in the nation.

L.S. Sam Skaggs

“Mr. Skaggs’ generosity allowed UM to invest in pharmaceutical and health science research,” says UM President Royce Engstrom. “In the years since, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy has consistently ranked among the top pharmacy schools in the nation for total research dollars. This is a huge measure of the School’s success and national reputation, and Mr. Skaggs really allowed that to happen.”

Most recently, Skaggs designated $250,000 in scholarships to be used in the advancement of student success.

“Mr. Skaggs has impacted more than 1,250 pharmacy students at UM since his first generous gift in 1994,” says David Forbes, dean of the UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. “His influence goes beyond the individual students. Our graduates enter the workforce and benefit countless people with high quality healthcare throughout the country.”

Skaggs served four years in the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service in Europe during World War II and found his professional career at the age of 26, when he assumed presidency of the Payless Drug Stores chain after his father’s death in 1950. In 1979, he obtained American Stores, forming the second-largest United States food retailer in the country.  Shortly before he retired in 1995, Skaggs was responsible for one of the largest food companies in the world, an enterprise that included 1,700 stores in 26 states and annual revenue exceeding $22 billion.

He devoted a significant portion of his wealth to diverse philanthropic interests, ranging from pharmaceutical education and research throughout the American west to religious interests that included support of the Skaggs Catholic Center in Utah.

“The generosity of Mr. Skaggs will impact generations of students to come. His investment in students, and UM, is appreciated beyond measure. He is an inspiration to our community, and will be remembered fondly,” says Forbes.

Skaggs is survived by his wife of 64 years, Aline Wilmot Skaggs; children, Susie Balukoff (AJ) of Boise, Idaho, Mark S. Skaggs (Cindy) of Eureka Springs, Ark., Claudia S. Luttrell of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Don L Skaggs (Teresa) of Salt Lake City, Utah; 15 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.