Ted Nash Long Life Foundation funds $200,000 for Alzheimer’s research

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Ted Nash was a strong communicator who enjoyed speaking to groups around the country.

By Sharon Reynolds

Ted Nash was the son of a railroad company man and grew up in his father’s shadow. Born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1917, he worked as a cabin boy while a teen, shoveling coal to heat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s private railroad car while traveling across the U.S. during the 1932 presidential election campaign.

After graduating from Purdue University with an engineering degree, Mr. Nash served in the Army during World War II and later worked for Electro-Motive, a division of General Motors. He set his sights on becoming a millionaire with the intent of eventually donating his money to make the world a better place. The Waco businessman worked hard, lived frugally, and amassed millions.

“Ted Nash was a very simple guy,” said Daniel A. Palmer, a trustee on the Foundation named for this people’s champion. “He could stretch a penny as far as it went and was always big on return on investment.”

Before Mr. Nash’s death in 2002, he set up a philanthropic foundation with a mission to help increase the life expectancy of the average American citizen.

“Once I convinced him that he wouldn’t have to pay half of his estate to the government when he died if he put his money into a foundation, it went off like a lightbulb in his head,” Mr. Palmer said. “His intent for his $10 million estate was to fund research that would prolong the human life span and improve people’s quality of life in their later years. He passed away right before the Foundation held its first board meeting.”

For 15 years, Mr. Palmer and the other Ted Nash Long Life Foundation trustees have kept Mr. Nash’s legacy alive, granting more than $5.6 million to various research institutions throughout Texas and Minnesota, including more than $1.7 million to UT Southwestern Medical Center. The Foundation’s most recent gift of $200,000 supports scientific study in Alzheimer’s disease under the direction of Dr. Kendra Frederick, Assistant Professor of Biophysics who also holds faculty appointments in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology.

“For Alzheimer’s disease and many of the neurodegenerative diseases, we don’t have any treatments that target the underlying cause of the disease inside the cell,” said Dr. Frederick. “Right now we do the best we can by treating symptoms and not yet the disease itself.”

Dr. Frederick is studying atomic structures using a superconducting magnet, a new technology that allows her to see inside live cells and potentially unlock the mysteries of certain diseases. UT Southwestern is the fourth university in the nation to acquire this magnet that has transformed the study of atoms and made Dr. Frederick’s work possible. She is one of the few researchers in her field working with live cells. With a unique training background in physical chemistry and genetics, she hopes to lay the foundation for future research to build upon and someday improve the lives of patients.

Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern, said, “Scientific inquiry has been a hallmark of our Medical Center, and the work of scientists like Dr. Frederick has the potential to change the way doctors treat disease and potentially save lives. The sustained support of the Ted Nash Long Life Foundation gives hope to other patients and families who battle Alzheimer’s disease.”

Early career scientists like Dr. Frederick are not usually eligible to receive larger, more competitive research funding from resources such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), so the Ted Nash Long Life Foundation grant provides a true kick-start to her research career. She is most grateful.

“I have dreamed of being able to do this work for a very long time,” Dr. Frederick said. “It’s stunning to actually see a path to do it. I am one of the luckiest people.”

Mr. Palmer said the depth of the scientific work at the Medical Center is easy to appreciate.

“The impressive facilities and high quality of researchers speak volumes about the importance of the projects underway inside UT Southwestern laboratories,” he said. “Our hope is that our grants will take Dr. Frederick to the next level of funding to continue her research so she can secure additional grants through the NIH.”

Mr. Palmer said he believes Mr. Nash would be pleased with the impact of his Foundation’s research grants. “He would never have imagined if I would have told him 15 years ago that he could have started his Foundation with $10 million, given away over $5.5 million, and still have $8 million in his pocket … and fund all the grants that we’ve funded. That would have been the ultimate return on investment for him.” 

Dr. Frederick is the Lupe Murchison Foundation Scholar in Medical Research.

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.