Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, M.D., was presented with the inaugural Christopher Hobler Spirit of Hope Award at the 3rd annual “Evening of Hope,” a gala dinner and concert May 14 at The Sheldon Concert Hall.
Danforth was honored by the non-profit organization Hope Happens for his “demonstrated passion for and commitment to the mission of Hope Happens and support for a new model of doing research for neurodegenerative disorders at the Hope Center,” said Jean Hobler, who presented the award named for her son, who died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Feb. 16, 2005.
Hobler is one of the founders of Hope Happens and a member of the Steering Committee of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at the School of Medicine.
The mission of Hope Happens is to improve the lives of people with neurodegenerative disorders by promoting collaborative, translational research with the potential to fast-track cures.
“Your visionary leadership and determination have built WU into one of the nation’s finest universities and helped make this the preeminent medical center it is,” Dennis O’Brien, executive director of Hope Happens, said of Danforth. “More recently, your ability to recognize the enormous potential of the Hope Center and your strong support of it are important factors in its rapid development into a center of excellence at the university.”
Christopher Wells Hobler was diagnosed with ALS (sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2001 at age 35. He knew all about the fatal neurodegenerative disorder, having watched his grandfather, James A. Maritz Sr., struggle with it.
Wanting to take action, he considered starting his own research center. Instead, in 2002, Hobler, a father of three, founded ALS Hope – The Chris Hobler/James Maritz Foundation. The foundation’s goal was to quickly find a cure for ALS by funding innovative research and inspiring scientific collaboration.
Two years later, ALS Hope, now renamed Hope Happens, teamed with the University to open the Hope Center, a basic science research center dedicated to finding the causes and cures for debilitating nervous system diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
In his acceptance remarks, Danforth said: “I would not be here tonight if medical research had not extended my life. I believed in medical research long before its fruits affected my life directly, but now I have a personal reason to be grateful.
“The Hope Center puts together the right world-leading scientists, with the right vision, and the right infrastructure to mount an attack on these crippling diseases,” Danforth continued. “The challenge for us all is to join the Hope Center in the pursuit of this noble cause.”
For more information and to read the full text of Danforth’s acceptance speech, visit hopehappens.org.