Health & Fitness

Raising money to help neurodegenerative research

Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence
Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence Brandeis University

South Florida real estate developer Mitchell Robbins witnessed how a neurodegenerative disease can wreak havoc with both a loved one and his immediate family. His father, Arnold, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and died six years ago.

“It’s a very debilitating process for the person going through it,” Robbins said. “But it’s also very difficult for the family. I saw what my mother went through.”

That experience has prompted Robbins to host a Thursday luncheon at his Wyndham Hotel in Boca Raton that will raise funds for Brandeis University’s neurodegenerative researchers through its Sustaining the Mind campaign. Sponsored by the Brandeis National Committee, the campaign seeks to raise $3 million to foster research in neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases and to establish an endowed scholarship fund for students in the sciences. So far $2.2 million has been collected.

Brandeis president Frederick M. Lawrence will speak at the Boca Raton luncheon. In a separate event, Lawrence will also meet with Brandeis alumni and friends Thursday evening at the NSU Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale.

Though Lawrence visits South Florida at least once a year because of the university’s numerous alumni in the area and its active Brandeis National Committee chapters, this visit is special because the money raised at the luncheon “will go for the study of one of the great scourges of our time,” Lawrence said in a phone interview.

Luncheon attendees are being asked to contribute a Sustaining Member gift of $1,000 to reserve a seat at the luncheon, and Robbins is underwriting all costs of the luncheon.

Lawrence is expected to tell Brandeis National Committee members about the increasing need for research in the neurological and neurodegenerative fields — including for diseses such Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. ALS and other lesser-known ones — as the population ages. He will also talk about Brandeis researchers who are working in more than 50 different research laboratories trying to understand the biological processes that control brain function.

These researchers include Eve Marder, one of just 14 U.S. scientists selected to serve on the advisory board of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies); Dagmar Ringe, who is figuring out a way to strengthen the defense mechanism against the building of abnormal protein fragments that form around neurons in Alzheimer patients; and Sue Paradis, who discovered a new signaling molecule, Rem2, that may be the cause of some neurological disorders, particularly epilepsy and autism.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by one of these diseases,” Lawrence added.

The Brandeis National Committee, with several hundred members in South Florida, has raised $126 million since 1948 to support the Brandeis library, scientific research and student scholarships.

If you go

▪ ‘Sustaining the Mind’ luncheon, noon Jan. 29, Wyndham Hotel Boca Raton, 1950 Glades Rd. Contribution: $1,000.

Info: Dr. Lydia Axlrod at (561) 573-4069;


▪ ‘An Evening with President Frederick M. Lawrence,’ 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29, NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, One East Las Olas Blvd.

Info: RSVP to or 877-269-3287.