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David Geffen School of Medicine

Landmark Gift Paves the Way for Breakthroughs

  the new Edie & Lew Wasserman Building  

Phyllis and James L. Easton at The UCLA Medal ceremony.
Photo: Todd Cheney/ASUCLA Photography

Since earning his engineering degree from UCLA in 1959, James L. Easton, a leading manufacturer of athletic equipment, has been a tireless champion for the university. His philanthropic contributions to UCLA span programs in athletics, management, technology and medicine — in particular, research into Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. In 2014, Easton received The UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor given to an individual for extraordinary achievement. The award recognized not only his philanthropy, but also his strategic guidance that has enhanced UCLA’s ability to provide competitive learning opportunities and accelerate crucial medical research.

Now, Easton ushers in a new era by making a $36-million pledge to establish interdisciplinary research and education programs to benefit the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the UCLA Anderson School of Management and UCLA Athletics. While each of these disciplines has a different focus, they represent opportunities for pioneering cross-campus collaborations that support UCLA’s priorities, as well as those of Easton and his wife Phyllis — who was instrumental in bringing the gift to fruition — to foster partnerships that will bring about more rapid advances.

“Innovations to enhance more people’s lives don’t happen on their own,” Easton says. “Great minds and collaborations across the university, with solid funding, are the cornerstones of change, and I’m proud to continue to support areas at UCLA that I am passionate about. It is especially meaningful to see different disciplines, such as engineering and neurosurgery, work together to bring about important advances.”

“UCLA aspires to create a truly integrated academic medical center,” says Dr. John C. Mazziotta (RES ’81, FEL ’83), vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health. “The Eastons’ commitment to fostering collaborations across departments in order to form a cohesive campus is a visionary partnership with the university that completely aligns with our goals and will have a far-reaching and long-term impact.”

As part of this landmark gift, the Department of Neurology will receive $17 million, directed to the Easton Labs for Neurodegeneration for updating and equipping research facilities, recruiting clinicians and research scientists and conducting research. The Department of Neurosurgery will benefit from $5 million that will help advance investigations and training in the Easton Labs for Brain Injuries. A portion of the funds will establish an endowment and provide support for fellowships in neurosurgery, to be known as the Easton Brain Injury Fellows. In addition, the gift will fund a new concussion clinic, which will be housed in the Edie & Lew Wasserman Building.

The programs in the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery funded by these contributions will examine the mechanisms and treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and further the science of memory loss, research the pathology of brain injury and disease and focus on the prevention and diagnosis of traumatic brain injury in order to develop new therapies and prevention strategies. The Eastons’ visionary investment also will provide $5 million to the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science to create the Easton Labs for Engineering Innovation, tasked with the development of high-impact research and innovation in new materials. This generosity already has inspired collaboration between the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science to develop pioneering materials that will help detect and prevent brain and body injury.

For more information, contact Kathryn Carrico at: (310) 825-2558.


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