Vale Ken Bickle

Colleague celebrates the life of a pharmacy leader 

Well-known pharmacy identity Ken Bickle has died recently after a life dedicated to community pharmacy and public health.

Mr Bickle passed on 23 June at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife Margaret, herself a leading community pharmacy figure, two children and three grandchildren.   

His long-time colleague Warwick Wilkinson has provided the following tribute. 

Kenneth Robert Bickle, affectionately known as Ken, has been a significant influence in many areas over the years. I first met Ken when we were first-year students in the pharmacy course at the University of Sydney back in the 40’s, and Ken and Margaret Stork became – and remained – an item. Ken’s cheery disposition and positive outlook made him popular and likeable, and he earned respect from all of those that he had contact with.

Ken completed his course at the University of Sydney in 1950 but had to wait 18 months until he turned 21 to become registered. He was the founding member of the East Hills Pharmacist Association when he commenced practice in 1951. Ken’s interest in official pharmacy was ever-present and he made forthright contributions to the various debates within the profession. He was supportive of young pharmacists and encouraged them to enter the profession, developing leadership programs for them.

In 1977 Ken was elected to the Pharmacy Board of NSW and in 1990 was appointed President of the Board, serving in that position for 8 years – one of the longest Presidencies in the Board’s 100-year existence. He was held in high regard by a number of ministers for his genial manner and prudent advice. Ken was the founding member of the Pharmacy Alumni Association of the University of Sydney, which became very influential. He was a member of the NSW State Branch Committee of the Pharmacy Guild, and an inaugural member of the Pharmacy Practice Foundation Council of the University of Sydney. He was also involved in the affairs of the Pharmaceutical Society in NSW and acted as a skilful liaison between the Society, the Guild and the Board.

Ken was instrumental in formalising the Pharmacy Boards of Australia into a cohesive body, the Association of Pharmacy Registering Authorities (APRA) in 1991 and did much to gain its acceptance in professional circles both here and overseas.

In 1995 together with a small group of colleagues he developed the principles and procedures that are now world-renowned to remove unwanted medicines from the community.

He and Margaret built up a large circle of international friends by his regular attendance at the overseas conferences of the Federation Internationale Pharmaceutique (FIP). He always presented the Australian case with enthusiasm and vigour.

Ken was named a member of the Order of Australia in 2008 for his outstanding contribution to the development of pharmacy practice.

Ken’s epicurean interests were legendary and he was renowned for organising a range of dinners attended by the so-called “Young Turks”. Ken received the title of Caliph and wore a fez.

And of course, Ken was active in the local Liberal Party – the electorate of Lowe. And I still remember how he challenged the sitting member, Billy McMahon, on some issues that he – Ken – was concerned about and left the sitting member in no doubt of his views.

Ken’s was a life was well-lived. But most importantly, all of this enormous activity – pharmacy, committees, boards, food, travel, golf, racing and much more – did not stop him from being a charming and caring husband, father and friend who will be greatly missed.

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