$4 million donation from Daryl Geweke supports glaucoma research and treatment

James D. Brandt and Nicholas R. Marsh-Armstrong are inaugural holders of new endowed chairs

By Lisa Howard

September 13, 2022 — The Eye Center at UC Davis Health has two new endowed chairs focused on glaucoma, thanks to a $4 million donation from business entrepreneur Daryl Geweke. James D. Brandt and Nicholas R. Marsh-Armstrong, professors in the UC Davis Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, are the inaugural holders of the new endowed chairs. Their investitures were celebrated at a ceremony last month. 

”This incredibly generous gift from Mr. Geweke will serve as a catalyst to advance the understanding and treatment of glaucoma for generations to come. The inaugural chair holders represent great talent in both the unraveling of the causes of glaucoma as well as newer methods of treatment now and in the future,” said Mark J. Mannis, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science. “It is an investment that will pay dividends to the people of our nation and the world for many years. We cannot thank Mr. Geweke enough.”

People in Lodi, Stockton and greater Sacramento may recognize the Geweke name from his many businesses in the region. 

Geweke opened his first auto dealership in Lodi in 1966 — Geweke Ford. Over the next several decades, he went on to own Geweke Toyota, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Kia and an RV dealership. His business later grew to include hotels, a convenience store, a car wash, and an office and retail building. Geweke’s wife of 68 years, Opal, named in the endowed chairs, passed away in 2018.   

With this gift, Geweke joins other lead donors to the university’s $2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, “Expect Greater: From UC Davis, for the world,” the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history. Together, donors and UC Davis are advancing work to prepare future leaders, sustain healthier communities, and bring innovative solutions to today's most urgent challenges.

"The inaugural chair holders represent great talent in both the unraveling of the causes of glaucoma as well as newer methods of treatment now and in the future."
— Mark Mannis

Support for glaucoma research and treatment

Brandt, the inaugural holder of the Daryl and Opal Geweke Endowed Chair in Glaucoma, treats glaucoma, particularly in children. He strongly believes that an informed patient is an empowered patient. 

Brandt considers partnering with parents and watching their kids grow up one of the most important (and fun) things he does. As a volunteer with Orbis International, a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, Dr. Brandt has traveled to more than a dozen developing countries to care for children with glaucoma and to teach surgical techniques to local surgeons. 

Marsh-Armstrongthe inaugural chairholder of the Daryl and Opal Geweke Endowed Chair in Glaucoma Research, studies basic science questions related to glaucoma. His lab focuses on three main areas of research. 

First is understanding changes that occur at the optic nerve head in the eye. This is where the damage is thought to occur in glaucoma. Second is understanding the significance of shedding of mitochondria (cell structures that generate energy) at the optic nerve head. And third is trying to understand how some species can rewire the eye and brain after an injury (something humans cannot do). The goal is to translate the research findings into glaucoma diagnostics and therapeutics. 

With early detection, glaucoma can be controlled

It is estimated that about three million people in the U.S. and about 80 million worldwide have glaucoma. It is the second-leading cause of preventable blindness in the world today. 

In the early stages, many people with glaucoma have no symptoms. But glaucoma can be detected before there are symptoms through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. With early detection, glaucoma can be controlled through medications or surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment can protect the eyes against serious vision loss. Learn more about glaucoma.