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February 04. 2014 9:09PM

Dartmouth’s Geisel School receives $6.25 million gift

HANOVER — The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College has received a $ 6.25 million gift from the estate of Susan Diamond, formerly of Omaha, Neb., to support neurological research.

Diamond was a long-time resident of Omaha, who had no direct heirs or siblings, her longtime friend and personal representative Marleen Evans said Tuesday.

When Diamond died in July at age 78 her fortune went to charities. Her bequest came as a surprise to Geisel School officials who were unaware of Diamond’s plan to give, Evans said.

Diamond left most of her sizable estate to three organizations: the ALS Association, Stanford School of Medicine, and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She also gave a smaller bequest to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“This came as a surprise to all the beneficiaries with the exception of Mayo clinic,” Evans said. “She really never talked about why she chose who she did and never talked to the people who were the beneficiaries.”

Diamond’s life was deeply affected by her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, which is likely why she wanted to support neurology research, Evans said.

“She was very interested in medicine and health issues, especially because of her mother having Alzheimer’s,” Evans said. “Even today we have a long way to go as far as dementia is concerned.”

Diamond’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the 1960s and lived with it for 20 years, Evans said, during which Diamond pursued the best treatment and information on the disease as she cared for her mother over those two decades.

She also became interested in the causes of the disease as well as where the leading neuroscience research was being done.“We are honored and humbled by Ms. Diamond’s investment in the excellent neuroscience research being conducted at the medical school,” Dr. Wiley “Chip” Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, said in an announcement Tuesday. “I did not know Susan Diamond, but her confidence in our ability to find new answers to debilitating neurological diseases will continue to inspire and drive our work. Making new discoveries that improve lives will be the best way to honor her example and passion.”Evans said, Diamond feared she would get Alzheimer’s herself, which she eventually did. She was active until the last few years of her life, she said. In her youth, Diamond was athletic. And after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree from Stanford University, both in physical education, she taught P.E. for several years. She then took the H&R Block training and ran her own tax service for about 12 years, Evans said.

Aside from driving a white, convertible Cadillac, Diamond lived simply, Evans said.“I think most of the people that knew her might have been very surprised that she had a lot of money,” Evans said. Diamond’s greatest interest was investing, which is where Evans suspects Diamond amassed her fortune. She started as a teenager with a few shares of Coca-Cola stock. “I think Susan was probably only in high school when she first took an interest in investing and her mother helped her buy that first stock. She worked with a broker, but she basically made her own investment decisions,” Evans said.

Diamond seldom gave to organizations or institutions during her life. She preferred to give directly to people instead. According to Evans, “From time to time she would run an ad in the paper inviting people who’d had a misfortune through no fault of their own to contact her and tell her their story. … She would go through the responses and choose the ones that she felt were worthy of her assistance. Then she would go visit the people and often would do things like buy groceries, pay rent, pay utilities, or pay medical bills. She would decide what she felt was worth doing. She was someone who liked to do things her way.”

These were Diamond’s “projects,” as she described them, Evans said.Diamond’s donation to the Geisel School is “a transformative gift,” Jeffrey Cohen, interim chair of Geisel’s Department of Neurology, said in Tuesday’s announcement, and would allow for the school to expand its neurology faculty and more rapidly translate discoveries made in the lab into better clinical care for our patients with neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s. The department has ongoing research and expertise in several progressive, disabling neurological diseases, especially Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, dementia, epilepsy, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, and stroke.


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