Couple make $2 million gift for brain-related translational research

By Sharon Reynolds

Charles Jones and Madelaine Pfau

Madelaine Pfau and Charles Jones enjoyed successful careers and traveled the world before retiring in Dallas. In 2016, they were happily pursuing their passions when unexpected news shattered their world – Ms. Pfau, who had been the epitome of good health, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“One day everything was great, and we were going to live for a long time,” Mr. Jones said. “The next day, in an instant, Madelaine had what could be a death sentence. The first few months of treatment were overwhelming, but after that point, we were confident that they caught her cancer early enough and that her prognosis was going to be good.”

The realities of chronic illness prompted the couple to take a closer look at their future plans. Ms. Pfau knew how important it had been for her own aging parents to have access to the latest medical resources. Mr. Jones had watched the vibrant lives of his mother and grandmother fade from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. Because UT Southwestern Medical Center was an academic institution that offered them access to the highest caliber of care and the most advanced medical treatments available, they decided to make it their medical home.

Late in 2017, with the help of their financial adviser, Ms. Pfau and Mr. Jones had a conversation about their financial assets and options to leave a family legacy. Specifically, they began to explore how they could support a worthy philanthropic cause by passing along appreciated assets from a private equity investment.

Ms. Pfau said, “We thought, ‘Why not roll all of this together into one activity?’” They established themselves as patients at UTSW and connected with institutional leaders to learn more about the latest science and innovation that was happening at the Medical Center.

Translational research – bridging the gap to tomorrow’s care and cures
Ms. Pfau and Mr. Jones made a $2 million gift of private equity stock to establish the Madelaine Pfau and Charles Jones University Distinguished Chair in Translational Research at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern. This permanent endowment will support brain-related translational research that has the potential to convert the most promising research discoveries into new therapies.

“Strengthening the infrastructure for translational research has become a key focus at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Translational research is the engine that moves science from the bench to the patient’s bedside. It transforms research discoveries into improved and innovative drugs, devices, and treatment options for patients. We are deeply grateful to Madelaine and Charles for supporting this important area for innovation in advancing treatment options for people suffering from brain-related diseases.”

Their gift will help support a nationally renowned expert to work closely with basic scientists to identify new discoveries. Once developed, they translate that knowledge to clinicians, who test the effectiveness of new treatments through clinical trials. Translational researchers also take new discoveries that develop through clinical trials back to scientists in their laboratories for further investigation.

“There are activities going on in laboratories that don’t go beyond petri dishes,” Mr. Jones said. “Then there are clinical practices where physicians start testing some of these promising ideas through patient care. Our gift provides the missing middle link. Perhaps this translational research will help produce a drug faster that is going to change the course of life for millions of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Our fondest hope is that, even in our lifetimes, we would see the impact of our gift realized.”

Investing in the Dallas community
Although Ms. Pfau and Mr. Jones never met while MBA classmates at Harvard Business School, their paths finally crossed in 1977 when they both were living in Dallas. Early on in her career, Ms. Pfau was a general management consultant and served for 15 years as a Managing Partner at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. Since retiring in 2008, she has served as an adviser for the same firm. Mr. Jones started his career as an industrial engineer for Procter & Gamble and became a Partner at consulting firms McKinsey and Price Waterhouse.

Over the years, the couple have enjoyed the growth and vibrancy of the Dallas business community and have made many friends. They have become more involved with activities at UT Southwestern, joining the Circle of Friends and the President’s Research Council.

“The world of medicine is evolving so fast that this is an ideal time to be able to help and participate as long as you get involved in an institution that you have a great deal of trust in and is really at a first-rate level,” Ms. Pfau said. “We have every bit of that confidence in UT Southwestern and hope that others will too.”

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.