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$6 million gift advances aging research (10-5-00)

Aging research programs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) will benefit greatly from an initial $6 million bequest recently received from a grateful patient and longtime UTHSC supporter. The Health Science Center also will receive additional distributions from the estate to further increase the support of aging research.

Berneice Castella was a patient at the Health Science Center, along with her husband William, for several years. Through this association, the couple took an interest in Health Science Center research programs targeting age-related conditions and diseases. After her husband’s death, Castella made several substantial gifts over the years to support research in neurology, particularly into degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to including the $6 million bequest in her will. She passed away last year.

The gift will further the Health Science Center’s strong commitment to aging research by establishing an endowment that will be distributed among the Health Science Center’s five schools—medical, dental, nursing, graduate biosciences and allied health sciences—to support aging research initiatives throughout the institution. The Health Science Center has become a leader in aging research, having garnered record amounts of federal funding from the National Institute of Aging as well as through private gifts. The Health Science Center devotes more than 150 faculty members from all five schools to aging research, clinical care and education through its Aging Research and Education Center (AREC).

“This is one of the largest gifts the Health Science Center has ever received,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. “It was a pleasure to get to know Mrs. Castella over the years. Now she has left a grand legacy that will support age-related research. We have one of the nation’s premier programs in that field, and the fact that she was a grateful patient makes this even more rewarding. We are committed to seeing that the endowment she has created will be used wisely for the benefit of all Texans.”

Research into age-related conditions and diseases likely will increase rapidly over the next decade in anticipation of a substantial rise in aged individuals in the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the percentage of U.S. citizens 65 or older will increase from its current rate of about 15 percent to 20 percent by 2050. The bureau also predicts that while the overall U.S. population will rise nearly 50 percent by the year 2050, the number of Americans 85 and older will rise more than 400 percent.

Contact: Will Sansom