Thomas M. Ryan donates $15 million to establish neuroscience institute
Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 12:11
The University of Rhode Island received the largest private donation in its history this month from URI Alumnus and retired CVS Caremark CEO Thomas M. Ryan and his wife Cathy. The $15 million donation will be used to establish the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at URI.
The establishment of the Ryan Neuroscience Institute will make URI a cutting edge research facility in the field of neuroscience, a field that is still vastly unexplored. While focusing on research, teaching and outreach, the institute will attract researchers from many different disciplines across the university, state and nation who will work collaboratively with researchers from Brown University’s Brown Institute for Brain Science and the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute at Rhode Island Hospital.
Ryan and his wife hope that the institute will attract researchers to solve the issue of neurodegenerative diseases. The gift will enable the university to attract leading researchers and train a new generation of scientists to solve the mystery of neurodegenerative disorders, according to a press release. This gift will also help establish the interdisciplinary neurosciences program at URI, a program that is currently 2 years old and draws candidates from multiple disciplines.
“The Ryan Institute will elevate the visibility of the groundbreaking research taking place here in Rhode Island and position URI as a leader in neuroscience research and the treatment of neurodegenerative and neurological diseases,” URI President David M. Dooley said in a release. “We are tremendously grateful to Tom and Cathy Ryan and the Ryan family for their foresight and continued generosity. They have created an enduring legacy and made a truly transformational gift.”
With more than 600 neurological diseases known today, including Parkinsons Disease, Epilepsy and Amoytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), according to the National Institutes of Health, neuroscience is a field of medicine that is growing exponentially. Having a cutting edge neuroscience institute at URI is expected to generate substantial capital for the state of Rhode Island.
“In addition to helping ease the suffering of millions of people around the globe, the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience will contribute significantly to economic development in Rhode Island by creating a vibrant environment for the expansion of basic biomedical research and clinical practice in neuroscience,” Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chaffee said in a release.
Second year Ph.D candidate in the interdisciplinary neurosciences program Aseel Eid believes that the establishment of the Ryan Neuroscience Institute will benefit URI on multiple levels.
“I hope that it really helps bring in some good faculty and some leaders to help mold the program because it’s so new,” Eid said. “I think it’ll give us the opportunity to do research on things and explore different fields that we might not have [had] before because of the money. The fact that someone recognizes its [URI’s neuroscience program] value and importance and is willing to donate such a large sum right away right in the first few years really makes it stand out how important this [neuroscientific research] is to people. It really makes it feel like you’re a part of something really big.”
Eid has a personal connection to the field of neuroscience, a connection that drew her to study at URI. Since effects of the $15 million dollar gift will begin to take place as early as 2014, Eid’s education will benefit from the Ryans’ gift.
“Just like most other people, almost everybody knows someone or has met someone in their life who has been effected by some type of neurological disease, and for me, I have someone very close to me in my family who was diagnosed really young with a neurological disorder and ever since then, I had always wanted to pursue neuroscience,” Eid said.
According to a press release, the Ryans also have a personal connection to the field of neuroscience.
“On a personal level, my dad retired at a young age, was extremely healthy, rock-solid, kind of bigger than life guy, and he had a stroke and then subsequent Alzheimer’s,” Ryan said. “I saw what it did to him, what it did to my mother, and our family. The economic costs are one thing, but the personal, emotional costs are another. It steals memories. It saddles caregivers. I saw my mom’s health go down. I had colleagues at CVS pass away from ALS. So it hit close to home for us and, once we did the due diligence and saw what was going on at URI, it was a natural fit.“