$5 million commitment boosts technology innovation in brain research

By Sharon Reynolds

A $5 million gift from the Kent and JoAnn Foster Family Foundation will support technology innovation at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. The Fosters hope their gift will accelerate the pace of discovery in brain science and help to revolutionize the way brain health care is delivered.

Kent and Jodi Foster

“Technology plays an important part in almost all research, and getting the tools to the researchers is critical to their progress,” Mr. Foster said. “We believe the brain research going on at UT Southwestern could have an extraordinary global impact. Being able to contribute in a very small way to the success of UT Southwestern and its research is a rewarding experience for Jodi and me.”

Few places in the world are as primed for discovery and innovation as UT Southwestern, where major strengths include the scientific caliber of its investigators and a collaborative and interactive culture. The O’Donnell Brain Institute is multidisciplinary and multidimensional, leveraging the institution’s demonstrated expertise in fundamental neuroscience, clinical and translational medicine, and brain imaging to rapidly advance research discoveries into new therapies for those suffering from brain disorders.

“This gift from Jodi and Kent Foster will be transformational in accelerating understanding of the underlying causes of major forms of brain illness,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Rapid progress in state-of-the-art technologies like functional brain imaging, microscopy, and neuromodulation is transforming the field of neuroscience research and clinical care. This enables the development of more effective treatments and ultimately, the possibility of cures will prevail."

“Understanding the billions of cells, connections, and signals that are in the brain will require new technologies,” said Dr. David Russell, Vice Provost and Dean of Research at UT Southwestern. “This generous gift from the Fosters will allow our scientists and physicians to develop and test new tools that will reveal the inner workings of the brain in health and disease.” 

The Fosters met in Japan, where both served in the U.S. Air Force. After five years in the Air Force, Mr. Foster joined GTE Corp. and spent 29 years in various positions, including as President of the company. When he retired from GTE, he joined Ingram Micro, the world’s largest wholesale provider of information technology products and services, where he served as Chairman and CEO until his retirement in 2007. 

The Fosters have been longtime supporters of UT Southwestern, having committed more than $6.5 million in lifetime giving. Past gifts have funded diabetes research, genetics research, and endowed positions in internal medicine, medical ethics, and endocrinology.

Dr. Russell holds the Eugene McDermott Distinguished Chair in Molecular Genetics.

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.