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A large portion of the funding for the Ava Helen Pauling Chair in the Linus Pauling Institute was made possible by a donation that came as a complete surprise. In January 1998, a bank in Maine notified the OSU Foundation that a trust had been dissolved and that the Linus Pauling Institute would be receiving $1.2 million. The trust had been established by Orlo Williams, a small-town lawyer who once wrote the Institute for health information he wished to give to a friend. The Institute gladly sent him the requested information and a newsletter featuring the latest findings on nutrition research.
In the following years, Mr. Williams contributed a few hundred dollars annually to the Institute. No one knew he had the desire or means to make such a large donation.
Balz Frei, who holds the Linus Pauling Institute Endowed Chair and Directorship, says the Institute decided to save the unexpected generosity for a second endowed faculty position. Over the next three years, thousands of other donations came in from friends and supporters around the country, and in January 2001, the Institute was able to appoint the first Ava Helen Pauling Chair.
The Institute decided to name the chair after Ava Helen Pauling "because she was of great importance to Linus Pauling, his scientific career, and his work opposing nuclear testing and promoting world peace," says Dr. Frei. "Pauling always felt she should have shared the Nobel Peace Prize with him. We are pleased to honor her memory with this endowment."
Joseph Beckman came to Oregon State University in 2001 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was a professor of anesthesiology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, and neurobiology. At OSU, Professor Beckman joined the Linus Pauling Institute and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics as the holder of the Ava Helen Pauling Chair. One of the world's leading authorities on Lou Gehrig's disease, Joseph Beckman has built a strong research program focused on the role of oxidative stress, antioxidants, and dietary factors in neurodegenerative diseases. His research expands the scope of the Linus Pauling Institute, which is known around the world for its contributions to the fields of nutrition and human health.
At the University of Alabama, Beckman was associate director of the Center for Free Radical Biology. At the Center, he published one the most influential papers ever written on peroxynitrite, a compound which contributes to strokes and many degenerative diseases.
Joseph Beckman received a master’s degree in population biology from the University of Colorado in 1977 and a doctorate in plant physiology and biochemistry from Duke University in 1984. He is an established investigator for the American Heart Association, and currently holds grants from the National Institutes of Health and the ALS Association to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying Lou Gehrig's disease.
“My research interests have focused on problems related to neurodegeneration," Dr. Beckman said. "A decade ago, there were no clues about the causes of Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). Now we have important insights at a molecular level about what makes the brain susceptible to degeneration as we age. Significant advances in treatment have been made and there is hope for more rapid progress.”
“It is an honor for me to join the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU," Beckman added. "It is not difficult for most scientists to find roots of their research in concepts emanating from Linus Pauling.”