06/13/2005

Huntington Woman Leaves $2 Million for Alzheimer’s Research

Supports Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute

The late "Jim" and Susie Jimison

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Susie Frum Jimison of Huntington, W.Va., cared for four relatives – including her husband – as they suffered the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. When she died early last year, she left more than $2 million in her will to support Alzheimer’s research at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute on the campus of West Virginia University.

The gift was completed Monday (June 13) in front of many of her friends and colleagues at The Woodlands Retirement Community, Huntington, where she spent her last years.

“This was an amazing and thoughtful act, by a woman whose major concern in life was to alleviate the suffering of others,” said Robert M. D’Alessandri, M.D., president of the Institute. He accepted the bequest from the executor of the estate, Wallace “Rocky” Harris.

Mrs. Jimison, known widely for her beautiful singing voice, was a 1942 graduate of WVU, and taught music and voice in the Cabell County Schools. Her husband, Clario “Jim” Jimison, also a WVU graduate, operated the C.H. Jimison & Sons Construction Company for decades with his father and brother.

The company is well-known in the region for its prominent projects, including Memorial Field House in Huntington, and college buildings in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Susie’s sister-in-law, her husband, and her husband’s father and brother each died as a result of Alzheimer’s. Susie was a principal caregiver for all of them. Her husband was the last to die, in 1999.

Later, she made the first of several generous donations to the Institute. In a note attached to one gift, she wrote, “Having had four persons whom I loved suffer this cruel, dark illness, I pray for an answer. I am so thankful for people like Jay Rockefeller for his wonderful influence.”

In her will, she provided bequests to several people, and directed that the balance of the estate, in memory of C.H. Jimison, Clario N. Jimison, Jack Jimison and Rachel Frum, be given to the Rockefeller Institute “to be used exclusively for Alzheimer’s research.”

According to Harris, the balance totaled more than $2.1 million. He advanced $1 million to the Institute several months ago, and completed the gift with a check presented to Dr. D’Alessandri Monday.

“These funds are being applied directly to Alzheimer’s research,” D’Alessandri said. “The scientists associated with BRNI have been moving forward with research in several promising areas.”

D’Alessandri noted that BRNI now holds and is pursuing patents on several potential Alzheimer’s medications. “We are focused on research that can translate into useful therapies for this disease,” he said.    

"This is an incredible gift from a loving caregiver who wanted her life and those of her family members to have lasting meaning," said WVU President David C. Hardesty. "This gift will, no doubt, further the advances WVU researchers at the Rockefeller Institute have already made in fighting the mysteries of this disease. We thank Mrs. Jimison from the bottom of our hearts."

The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, the world’s first independent research center devoted to the study of human memory, is associated with West Virginia University and Johns Hopkins University. The Institute was founded by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, and is named for his mother, who died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. The Rockefeller family provided $15 million in private support to launch the project.

“Through the imagination and innovation of some of the world's greatest research scientists, the vision of the Institute is becoming reality. But the discoveries that will help millions of people overcome terrible neurodegenerative afflictions like Alzheimer's disease would not be possible without the compassion and caring of people like Susie Frum Jimison and the Jimison family. We are so grateful for their generosity,” Sen. Rockefeller said.

The Institute’s $30 million research facility is under construction on the WVU campus and is expected to be completed in 2006. The 102,500-square-foot building, designed by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott of Boston, will include laboratories, procedure rooms and office space. Funding for construction of the research center includes a $19.6 million Federal grant, obtained with the assistance of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, and $10 million in West Virginia state economic development funds.

- WVU -


05-119
For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
casew@rcbhsc.wvu.edu
bc:06-13-05

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