School of Pharmacy’s annual March Madness competition supports student scholarships in honor of the late Dr. Christian Albano.

Last month certainly had its fair share of broken brackets. But even the major March Madness upsets of 2023 couldn’t break the spirit of what has become a fond tradition for Concordia’s School of Pharmacy.

A group of 53 students, faculty, and staff recently wrapped up the School of Pharmacy’s annual NCAA bracket challenge competition. This year’s winner was Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Joe Rinka, PharmD.

Rinka was honored with a trophy during an informal ceremony this afternoon. The traveling trophy is a makeshift creation designed by members of the Concordia Student Pharmacists Association, who helped with the effort. The purposefully primitive trophy features a Freddy the Falcon bobblehead atop a mortar bowl with a “top picker” post-it note affixed to his finger. A perfect nod to the good-natured fun that ensues throughout the competition.

Supporting pharmacy student scholarships

Each year, proceeds from the $5 buy-ins go toward supporting a scholarship endowment formed in honor of a beloved pharmacy professor, Dr. Christian Albano. This year, the competition brought in $400. Albano unexpectedly passed away in 2017 while playing the sport he loved, basketball. Albano was also a fan of college basketball and participated in bracket challenges with his Concordia colleagues long before the competition became anything “official.”

“It means a lot that this award is tied to Christian’s name,” Rinka told the small group gathered as he accepted his trophy. “This suits his legacy well.”

The competition technically started more than a decade ago, but as a humble competition among a few colleagues, said Chris Cunningham, PhD. Participation grew as more and more people saw brackets posted in the pharmacy hallway outside faculty member’s offices.

Last year, students approached Cunningham asking to join. From there, the competition has continued its momentum. Now, any Concordian is invited to join.


Beyond the cause, the biggest draw is the meme-laden summary emails Cunningham graces the group with each week. Scroll down to get a taste of the fun.

Round One

March Madness week one meme

Round Two

March Madness Round 2 meme

Elite Eight

March Madness Elite Eight meme

Want in?

As a CUW pharmacy student, you can expect to acquire a world-class clinical and scientific knowledge base and to experience active applied learning throughout your degree program. Our accomplished faculty teach and mentor each individual student in a welcoming Christ-centered environment. Our highest priority is helping you develop your talents for a rewarding life, not only a career.