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August 20, 2009

SIU Med School Names Endowed Chair for Alzheimer’s Disease Research

Gregory J. Brewer, Ph.D., professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, has been named recipient of the Kenneth Stark Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.

The endowment is funded with a $1.8 million gift from the estate of Kenneth A. Stark, a Pike County native who had a long career as a farmland appraiser for the Federal Land Bank in St. Louis.  Interest from the endowment will be used to support a doctoral student and several studies related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Brewer has been selected as the first to hold the chair because of his nearly 30-year career in Springfield and his numerous contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research. 

“Gregory Brewer has demonstrated the finest attributes of scholarship and academic leadership necessary for the advancement of science and we are proud to name him as endowed chair of Alzheimer’s research,” said Dr. Tom Ala, associate professor of neurology and interim director of SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.

Stark’s interest in Alzheimer’s disease began when his wife, Vesta, was diagnosed with the condition.  He died in 2004 and she died in August 2007.  Stark also served as president of the State Bank of Nebo and chair of the Community Bank in Pittsfield, Plymouth and Mount Sterling.  In 1984 he was appointed to the State Banking Board, serving three consecutive terms until 1995.

Brewer has developed new isolation techniques and media for culturing neuronal cells, thus advancing scientists’ ability to experiment with new ways of treating a number of neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and brain injuries.  He has received outside funding for nearly 30 years, which now totals $7 million.  Brewer has authored 90 publications in leading scientific journals and holds three U.S. patents for his scientific discoveries.

Brewer joined the SIU faculty in 1980.  He earned his doctorate at the University of California San Diego (1972) and his bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of Technology (1968).

Additional gifts made to support Alzheimer’s research to honor the Starks may be directed to the Southern Illinois University Foundation.  Gifts can be made online at or mailed to the SIU Foundation, P.O. Box 19666, Springfield, IL 62794-9666.  For more information call SIU Foundation at 217-545-2955 weekdays.