1995 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"It is through education that people better themselves."
Born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monroe Trout was one of 14 children. His father was a carpenter, who was frequently out of work because of chronic alcoholism. "I can remember when I was four or five standing in a food line with my father to get cornmeal to make what we called mush. That's about all we had to eat," says Trout.
Like his older siblings, Trout went to work as a youngster to help support the family. At age six, he began working odd jobs for the mother of a prominent surgeon. Impressed with his work habits, the physician later hired him to clean his offices, mow the lawn, shovel snow, and carry out ashes from the coal furnace. He could work for an entire afternoon and earn only 25 cents.
An excellent student, Trout was mentored by several high school teachers. His older siblings had all dropped out of school to go to work, but Trout resisted taking that road. He graduated salutatorian of his class and won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his room and board as a dormitory advisor and pocketed extra money as a parking lot attendant at the university. With help from a Navy program, Trout went on to Penn Medical School. By the time he graduated, he was in charge of the entire university parking lot system. During his summers off, he worked as a laborer.
After graduation, Trout spent five years in the Navy and then returned to Harrisburg to serve as chief of medicine at the Harrisburg State Hospital. He then enrolled in Dickinson Law School while continuing to work at the hospital. He also worked on the law review and taught a class on medical legal issues. When he graduated in 1964, he was the only person pictured in the yearbook as both a student and a professor.
Trout joined Pfizer, Inc., as a member of the Government Affairs office. Within two years, he was in charge of Pfizer's entire government affairs department. In 1968, he joined Winthrop Laboratories and was promoted to vice president for medical affairs in less than a year. In 1978, he became a senior vice president of the parent company, Sterling Drug. He retired in 1986, but two months later joined American Healthcare Systems as chairman and CEO. He rebuilt the company from the ground up, making it highly successful.
Trout says, "Education unlocked the door to my future and my experience imbued me with a spirit of helping others." Trout was instrumental in founding the Morehouse School of Medicine and has endowed scholarships at Morehouse, Dickinson Law School, Bloomfield College, and Cumberland College. He also endowed professorships in pharmacology and surgery at the University of California, San Diego and is the recipient of three honorary degrees. He is the founding sponsor of the famous Rossini Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was Knoxville's Philanthropist of the Year in 2004.