SEATTLE—Bill and Marilyn Conner have always been interested in medicine and medical research. But the Kirkland couple who have spent their career in the building industry, have become more interested in medicine in general — and stem cell research in particular.
Like many families, the Conners, have been touched by disease. In their case, it has been pediatric cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
“Now our desire to fund research has taken on a somewhat selfish view,” Marilyn Conner said. “We picked the field of stem cell and regenerative medicine because it may unlock many keys in all these diseases.”
The Conners recently donated $1.5 million to create an endowed chair in the UW’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine.
The Conners are long-time supporters of UW Medicine as they, along with the late Richard McAbee, a leader in the construction industry, created the first endowed chair at the University. Marilyn Conner guided a team of volunteers to present an auction for the UW Medicine Friends of Alzheimer’s Research, an event that this year raised more than $250,000.
Just a few days later after the Conners made their gift, Michael and Linda Mastro, of Medina, confirmed their $1 million commitment to the institute. The Mastros wanted to do something meaningful for the community and decided donating to stem cell research was a way to accomplish that.
Both these gifts follow a donation from Orin Smith, retired Starbucks president and chief executive officer, who donated $5 million to the stem cell program last fall. Smith, a 1965 UW graduate, is chairman of the board for UW Medicine. UW Medicine also received last fall a $1 million anonymous gift for stem cell research.
“I can’t think of any other area that offers so much potential and promise to thousands — or millions — of people worldwide,” Smith said.
Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, noted that these gifts keep UW Medicine at the forefront of stem cell research.
“Stem cell research is advancing rapidly with new discoveries being made every day,” he said. “This generous gift will help the more than 70 UW researchers involved in stem cell research to stay at the leading edge.”
Details about stem cell research are on the institute’s Web site: https://depts.washington.edu/iscrm/