Hamon Charitable Foundation $10M gift fuels Alzheimer’s research

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Laura and Jack Roach

By Sharon Reynolds

A recent $10 million gift from the Hamon Charitable Foundation to UT Southwestern has established an endowment to support the new Laura and Jack Roach Center for Translational Research in Alzheimer’s Disease. The naming of the endowment, which was voted on by the other trustees to honor Mr. Roach’s leadership of the Hamon Charitable Foundation, came as a surprise to the family and is especially meaningful since Laura Roach is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Now in the final stages of the disease, her health is steadily declining. As they grieve their impending loss of a vibrant and loving wife, mother, and grandmother, the Roach family cherishes their memories of her. Mr. Roach reminisces daily about the more than 58 years he has been married to his sweetheart.

“I was watching fireworks the other night, and it reminded me of one of my favorite memories of Laura,” said Mr. Roach. “The first time I took her to Hong Kong, we stayed right next to the Peninsula Hotel over on Kowloon. You could look across the water at Hong Kong Island, where the lights at nighttime are indescribable. There’s nothing in the world like it. And I could see that little girl from Russellville, Arkansas, who sat there at that window every night and never moved, watching the lights and the movements of the harbor.”

Jack Roach was a young attorney when he came to Dallas in 1951, back when the oil business dominated and rough-and-tumble oilmen loomed larger than life. Soon after, he met his true love, Laura, and they began a life together filled with hopes and dreams. Mr. Roach became a prominent oil and gas attorney and a financial adviser who served high-profile clients; his wife devoted her time to raising their three sons, John, Kelly, and Larry.

The couple raised their sons to value hard work, honesty, and caring for others. Mr. Roach would remind his boys often as they were growing up, “You don’t have to be rich and you don’t have to be famous, but for your own sake, just don’t be ordinary.”

The Roach family planted deep roots and emerged as a driving force to strengthen the Dallas community by supporting education and health care causes. Mr. Roach became a highly trusted counselor to many major philanthropists in Dallas, helping them distribute their funds to worthy causes. He worked closely with and became a faithful friend to Mrs. Nancy B. Hamon, who established the Hamon Charitable Foundation in 1998. Mrs. Hamon was a San Antonio native who worked in Hollywood during the 1940s before returning to Texas and marrying legendary oilman Jake Hamon in 1949. Mrs. Hamon grew to be one of Dallas’ most generous philanthropists who supported education, arts, and health care causes. Her imprint can be found all across Dallas. 

Nancy Hamon

This latest gift from the Hamon Charitable Foundation boosts their total giving to support activities of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute to $25 million, which includes an earlier gift of $15 million to support neuroimaging initiatives of the Advanced Imaging Research Center. The Foundation’s longtime support of UT Southwestern includes a $25 million donation to the Medical Center’s Fund for Molecular Research. Part of the gift – $15 million – established the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer, and two distinguished chairs in those fields. The remaining funds were used to help construct the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Biomedical Research Building on the North Campus.

Other gifts include $10 million for the Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine; a $4 million challenge grant to launch a campaign to build the Bryan Williams, M.D. Student Center; $1 million to help establish the George N. Peters, M.D., Center for Breast Surgery; and $1 million for the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital.

Mr. Roach, a practicing lawyer for 66 years, has served as an officer of the Hamon Charitable Foundation since its creation. As a proud trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation for nearly 40 years, he has witnessed the many medical advances and accomplishments at UT Southwestern that have transformed our understanding of devastating diseases and approaches to their prevention and treatment.

Ninety percent of what is known about Alzheimer’s has been discovered over the past 20 years. The Hamon Charitable Foundation gift will fuel translational research at UT Southwestern, which is the engine that moves science from the bench to bedside. Translational researchers work closely with basic research scientists to identify promising new discoveries, then translate that knowledge to clinicians as they test the effectiveness of new treatments. Translational researchers also take new discoveries that develop through clinical trials back to scientists for further investigation. This gift has the potential for discovery of better ways to treat Alzheimer’s and delay its onset.

“This magnificent gift from the Hamon Charitable Foundation will strengthen the infrastructure for translational research within the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Already, work at UT Southwestern is leading to promising new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. A strengthened translational research program will bridge the gap between scientific discovery and clinical care and accelerate progression between today’s medical challenges and tomorrow’s cures.” 

Kelly Roach is grateful for the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps as President of the Hamon Charitable Foundation. As stewards of the Hamon philanthropic legacy, he and the other trustees are sure to ask themselves “Would the Hamons approve?” on every gift they make.They are confident that Nancy and Jake Hamon would be pleased with a gift to establish the Laura and Jack Roach Center for Translational Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and its potential to end the pain and heartache associated with Alzheimer’s forever.

“We’re hoping for a cure and that researchers can slow progression of the disease,” said Kelly Roach. “We believe $10 million will get us a step closer in the right direction. It’s a difficult disease to watch – they call it ‘the long goodbye.’ We hope other families don’t have to experience what we’re experiencing.”

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

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