Major gift to benefit cardiology, neurology research at School of Medicine

By Staff

A gift of more than $1.9 million will bolster two areas of health care research at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The generous, unsolicited gift from the estate of Joseph and Rose LaConte, to be split equally between the Department of Neurology and the Division of Cardiology, is unusual in that the couple has no known ties to the university, its clinical program or its doctors. The LaContes, hard-working vegetable farmers, developed commercial real estate in Westminster for years as well as a drive-in movie theater; the LaConte Shopping Center in Westminster bears their name. Joseph died in 2001 at age 91; Rose died in 2006 at 94.

"It's a stunning gift," says Peter Buttrick, M.D., S. Gilbert Blount professor and head of the cardiology division, which will use its approximately $965,000 allocation from the bequest to fund an endowed research professorship to lead translational research, helping to convert basic laboratory science into new cardiovascular therapies.

For the neurology department, the LaConte bequest represents the second major gift received recently for Alzheimer's research (another $1.1 million bequest was received last spring). The latest gift of about $965,000 will, like the earlier gift, fund the hiring of a faculty member with high-caliber research expertise in Alzheimer's, according to Kenneth Tyler, M.D., Reuler-Lewin family professor and department chair. Alzheimer's disease is a priority research area for the department, as its incidence is expected to increase rapidly, and Colorado's 47 percent incidence increase since 2000 is greater than that of any state except Alaska.