Gift helps UAlberta research delve further into the mysteries of neurodegenerative diseases

Alberta family's contribution in the form of mineral rights propels U of A researchers' understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Laura Vega - 15 September 2019

After the passing of Lloyd Johnston, '44 MD, who had dementia, and his younger sister Shirley, who had Parkinson's disease, their respective children decided to honour their memories and southern Alberta roots by helping advance the research efforts of University of Alberta health scientists in these areas. They gave a special gift to research: the mineral rights on land in Calgary and in Springbank, west of Calgary.

The donation led to the creation of the Johnston Family Endowment Fund, which enables researchers at the U of A's Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI) to advance discoveries in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The family appreciated the collaborative work of NMHI within the university and throughout the province.

"I decided to go this route when I saw the cooperativeness in NMHI," said Marcia Langenberg, one of Lloyd Johnston's six daughters, who together with her sister, Patricia Johnston, had learned about the work of several researchers there. "You never know from which angle we're going to get important insights. Hearing that these scientists were not just in isolated labs working on their own research, but that they were collaborating with each other solidified for me that this was the right decision."

The fund supports research projects from faculty members and the work of trainees interested in investigating neurodegenerative diseases.

The members of the Johnston family wish to see a path towards a cure for Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's in the near future, and hope ongoing research will provide relief to patients and their families.

"It is our greatest desire that a cure is found within our lifetime, as we are well aware of the personal toll these diseases have on individuals and their loved ones who must watch them suffer and care for them," said Marcia.

The Johnston Family Endowment Fund will now help propel projects led by NMHI researchers to shed light on the mysteries that currently keep these diseases incurable.

"When we met with them, we always felt hope," said Marcia. "These researchers are so dedicated that you know they care about the people who are going to receive the benefits of their research in the end."

The Johnston Family Endowment Fund was created thanks to the generosity of Lynn Gregson, Patricia Johnston, Marcia Langenberg, Rae Redekopp and Pam Dennett (Lloyd Johnston's daughters) as well as Ann Jervis, Erin Johnston and Clayton Johnston (Shirley Johnston's daughters and son).