Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

Charles DeCarli
Charles DeCarli, an internationally renowned expert in behavioral neurology, degenerative dementia and neuroimaging, is the inaugural holder of the Victor and Genevieve Orsi endowed chair. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Victor Orsi got frustrated as Alzheimer’s disease began to incapacitate him. A retired attorney and a World War II veteran, Orsi prided himself on his intelligence and willingness to stand up to a fight. So he took on the debilitating disease the only way he could — by supporting research into finding a cure.

Before he died at age 88 in 2006, Orsi and his wife, Genevieve, met with their estate planners to revise their trust and designate a testamentary charitable gift, with the goal of supporting Alzheimer’s disease research.

The Roseville couple had learned about the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center — one of only 27 research centers in the country to be designated by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging as a center of excellence. The Orsis were impressed by the center’s research into the causes of dementia, and its advocacy for health policies to enhance the recognition, treatment and management of the disease.

Although Orsi was not treated there, and the family had no direct ties to the university, the Orsis decided a gift to the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center was the best way to fulfill their final wish — to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. They made a $1.64 million estate gift to support the center.

After Genevieve died in 2010, the Orsis’ professional advisors worked with the UC Davis Health System’s Planned Giving Office to carry out the couple’s wishes, setting up the Victor and Genevieve Orsi Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research at the UC Davis Health System.

Endowed chairs and professorships are indispensable for recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty members, and providing them with support to address critical research, patient care, program development and education needs. Planned gifts to establish endowed chairs and professorships allow a person or family to create a legacy at the university, supporting vital work for generations to come.

Starting in September, the Orsis’ gift will support the work of Charles DeCarli, the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an internationally renowned expert in behavioral neurology, degenerative dementia and neuroimaging. His research focuses on using advanced structural and functional brain imaging to study normal aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia and the role of genetics, cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease in these processes. His investigations have led to advances in prevention and treatment strategies at institutions worldwide. DeCarli is the inaugural holder of the Victor and Genevieve Orsi Endowed Chair.

“I am extremely honored to receive this endowment,” he said, “and I’m putting it toward the education of neurology residents interested in dementia, so that we can train the next generation of brain aging researchers and find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Mark Schaal, senior director of planned giving for the UC Davis Health System, said, “Victor and Genevieve Orsi are to be commended for their thoughtfulness and generosity in doing something truly meaningful to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Further, they showed great foresight by engaging a team of professional legal, fiduciary and investment advisers who helped them establish, manage and execute this generous and thoughtful gift.”