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Ralph F. Shangraw, 68, pharmaceuticals researcher


Ralph F. Shangraw, professor emeritus and former chairman of the department of pharmaceutics at the University of Maryland and a researcher known for his work with nitroglycerin and vitamins, died Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Catonsville resident, who had been suffering from pulmonary problems, was 68.

Beginning with his first job at his father's drugstore in Rutland, Vt., Dr. Shangraw spent his career in pharmaceuticals -- teaching, writing and researching drugs, especially vitamin supplements -- and won national and international acclaim for his work.

He saw tremendous change in drug therapy. "As a boy growing up in a pharmacy some of the things I dispensed have been shown to be absolutely worthless," Dr. Shangraw said in a 1983 interview. "We used to deliver drugs to the body now we are trying to deliver them to groups of cells It's sort of unbelievable -- what they're talking about."

Although he retired from full-time teaching in 1995, Dr. Shangraw continued his work until shortly before his death. For 20 years, he was a member of the United States Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit organization that issues compilations of drug standards and information.

In the 1980s, Dr. Shangraw and his students discovered that many of the calcium supplements being marketed were not being absorbed by the body. This led to a reformulation of the supplements and new quality and performance standards for them.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Shangraw determined that nitroglycerin, a drug commonly used to control chest pain, can lose a significant part of its potency depending on the type of container it is stored in. His finding led the Food and Drug Administration to require new packaging and labeling for the drug.

He was also responsible for designing a program for Maryland pharmacy students that incorporates into the college curriculum practical experience needed for licensing. Schools across the country use the program.

In 1989, he received the Research Achievement Award from the Academy of Pharmaceutical Scientists and, in 1991, he was named Distinguished Educator of the Year by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

A Vermont native, Dr. Shangraw became an associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Maryland in 1958, expecting to stay a few years so that he could be close to the Civil War battlefields he wanted to visit. He remained here the rest of his life, moving to Catonsville in 1959.

"He was a Civil War buff and visited every major Civil War battlefield in the United States," said his son, William Randall Shangraw of Sterling, Va., recalling family vacations to Civil War sites up and down the East Coast.

"Books were also his passion," said his daughter, Sharilyn Kaplan of Pikesville. "He had a love for teaching and history."

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Beechwood Avenue and Frederick Road.

He is also survived by his wife of 43 years, Marilyn Shangraw; another son, Ralph Shangraw Jr., also of Sterling, Va.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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