Bergeron Professorship Provides Support for Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery

George Bergeron lived his life as a man for others. Since Bergeron’s passing in 1999—after having lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years—his son Doug and Doug’s wife, Sandra, have sought ways to honor his legacy.

They’ve found that place at Georgetown University Medical Center and have established the George Bergeron Endowed Professorship in Neuroscience. Their $1.25 million gift will support a director to launch the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery and will bolster GUMC’s efforts in cutting-edge biomedical research in the neurosciences.

The center will also unite faculty conducting research in disparate areas to develop and refine groundbreaking approaches to restore cognitive, sensory and motor functions after stroke and provide novel treatments for other neurologic disorders, including MS.

“We’re committed to doing what we can to not only further all types of research involving MS but also to make life incrementally better for those afflicted with it. Georgetown is the ideal setting for that type of work,” Doug Bergeron said.

‘A Real Inspiration’

While George Bergeron was alive, he chaired the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Windsor-Essex chapter and showed others how to find happiness despite physical difficulties. He was a mentor, friend and advisor to countless newly diagnosed patients, providing a beacon of hope in the dark days after initial diagnosis.

His son remembers this well: “I would come home and there’d be a newly diagnosed 25-year-old sitting at the kitchen table with him. My father would give helpful hints, things he’d learned over his years of living with the disease.”

For all who sat at that table, George Bergeron was a real inspiration. “He was the go-to guy for newly diagnosed patients; he was able to tell them life isn’t over,” his son said. After his death, the city of Windsor, Ontario, opened the George Bergeron Healing Garden on the banks of the Detroit River in his honor.

Now, thanks to the endowed professorship, George Bergeron’s legacy will live on for generations to come, providing critical support to recruit and retain exceptional faculty who will lead the center’s research efforts to slow the progression of and eventually cure neurologic disorders.

“Due to the nation’s aging population, we expect neurological disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to grow and lead to burgeoning health problems, surpassing heart disease and cancer in the very near future,” said Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for health sciences at GUMC and executive dean of the School of Medicine. “This gift creates the foundation to develop the center where neurological discoveries can be made and shape the manner in which medicine is taught and clinical care is delivered.”

‘A Bright Future’

The center will bring together researchers across disciplines to study recovery in adults. This unique interdisciplinary approach combines Georgetown’s strengths in the sciences and humanities—linguistics, foreign languages, psychology and philosophy—with research and clinical efforts to combat neurologic diseases and disorders.

“We are grateful and honored to be the recipient of this extraordinary philanthropy that will exist in perpetuity in the name of George Bergeron,” Federoff continued.

Over the years, a friendship has blossomed between the Bergeron family and President John J. DeGioia—Doug and Sandra’s oldest daughter, Genève (C'10, G'12), received her graduate degree this spring—and the family believes in DeGioia’s leadership and strategic vision. “I’ve met many university chancellors and presidents, and I think he’s a unique and special guy. Georgetown’s got a bright future,” Bergeron said.

This gift is dedicated to advancing research in neurologic diseases, a strategic priority for Georgetown University Medical Center as part of the university’s $1.5 billion capital campaign For Generations to Come.