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Major Gift Endows Alzheimer’s Chair & Center at Temple

POSTED ON March 16, 2018

From left to right: Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, Director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health; Domenico Praticò, MD, the newly invested Scott Richard North Star Foundation Chair in Alzheimer’s Research; Phil Richards, Temple Trustee and North Star Foundation Chair and benefactor; Temple University President Richard Englert; and Larry Kaiser, MD, FACS, Temple Health’s CEO.

Thanks to a major donation from Temple trustee Phil Richards and the philanthropic group he chairs—a long-time Temple faculty member, Domenico Praticò, MD, was appointed the inaugural Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. (LKSOM). The endowment also establishes the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple (ACT), with Praticò as founding director. ACT will integrate research, training, clinical and educational activities–building on LKSOM’s tradition of excellence in biomedical research and education.

Numerous dignitaries, University officials, and special guests gathered to celebrate the gift, including Temple University President Richard Englert, Chair of the Temple University Board of Trustees Patrick J. O’Connor, and Larry Kaiser, MD, FACS, Dean of the School of Medicine, President/CEO of Temple’s Health System, and University Senior Executive Vice President for Health Affairs. Another special speaker was Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, the Mt. Sinai Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research at the Icahn School of Medicine, an Alzheimer’s researcher of international acclaim.

Of course the investiture featured the comments of the philanthropist himself, Phil Richards, a Fox School of Business alumnus who attended Temple in the early 1960s on a four-year wrestling scholarship and was Team Captain and Student Body President during his undergraduate days. Richards told the audience that he is celebrating a “60-year love affair with Temple University.”

“My ability to give back to Temple in this way is a crowning event on steroids for me, and for our Foundation,” Mr. Richards said.

Kaiser called Richards’ philanthropy “a visionary act of generosity that positions Temple to advance Alzheimer’s disease research in a time of rapid technological, scientific, and societal change.” He called the gift “a strategic investment that will pay dividends not just to Temple, but to society—well beyond our lifetimes.”  

Moreover, the philanthropy comes at an urgent moment, Kaiser said, with Alzheimer’s disease the 6th leading cause of death in the United States today—and more 5 million Americans diagnosed. “But In 30 years, that number will triple—touching every family, every industry, every facet of society—at profound cost on every plane,” Dr. Kaiser said. “Each disease takes its toll. But in robbing its victims of their very identities, the tragedy of Alzheimer’s is in a league of its own.”

Having lost a number of relatives, friends and colleagues to Alzheimer’s, Richards and his fellow foundation members were impressed to learn of Dr. Praticò’s unique achievements in the field—and eager to establish an endowed chair at Temple dedicated exclusively to Alzheimer’s.

Thanking Richards, Temple University President Richard Englert said, “I am once again delighted to say that one of our great Temple Trustees is leading the way.”

Patrick J. O’Connor, Chair of the Temple University Board of Trustees, called Phil Richards “a thoughtful man who makes decisions with his heart as well as his great business mind.”

All the speakers praised Richards for supporting many facets of University life over the years. “Thank you for investing your funds and your confidence in Temple, yet again,” Dr. Kaiser said.

Dr. Gandy, who directs the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, told the crowd that Dr. Pratico is a founder of what’s now one of the hottest and most promising areas of Alzheimer’s research: the immune-inflammatory system. “Temple and the Scott Richards Charitable Foundation have identified a major ‘North Star’ who will only burn brighter as the years pass,” Dr. Gandy said.

Excitement built as Kaiser introduced Dr. Praticò as the first encumbent of the chair.

A faculty member at LKSOM since 2007 and a member of the New York Academy of Science, Dr. Pratico holds professorships in Pharmacology, Microbiology and Immunology, and in the Center for Translational Medicine. He is an expert in the cellular and molecular aspects of cell oxidative biology with 240 articles and 25 book chapters to his credit. His research has also drawn attention in Newsweek, USA Today, and other high-profile consumer outlets.

Calling himself “humbled and proud” to be honored, Dr. Praticò said, “I express my deepest gratitude to Phil and Sue Richards and the entire board of the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation for their commitment to Temple—and for their generosity and unmatched sense of social responsibility to help eradicate this disease.”

Dr. Praticò said he is especially grateful for the unique power that endowments grant: the freedom to take on “high-risk, high-impact research projects that regular funding sources would not support.”

“Extraordinary advancements in science happen because there is a core belief and commitment that we can overcome the odds,” he said, calling the Richards family and the foundation “believers both in Temple and in a cure.”

“I will do my very best to defeat this devastating disease for the sake of humanity, but also with the desire that our work will proudly honor the life of your son Scott,” Dr. Pratico said.

In 2008, the North Star Resource Group renamed its foundation to honor the memory of Scott Richards, who’d served as president of the company. Born at Temple University Hospital in 1962, he was the Richards’ eldest son. The North Star Resource Group, Richard’s company, is one of the largest financial service firms in the world, with offices in 23 states. Its charitable foundation has dispersed more than $3 million to charities in the last ten years.

Closing the ceremony, Dr. Kaiser said, “We are enormously grateful to have a philanthropic partner with as much vision as Phil Richard and North Star. Your philanthropy will embolden our resources and our resolve for decades to come.”