Boler, Parseghian families endow Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases at Notre Dame

Author: Dennis Brown

Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases

The Boler and Parseghian families, both with longtime ties to the University of Notre Dame, have made gifts totaling $10 million to endow the University’s Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases.

Established in 2009, the newly named Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases embraces a wide array of researchers who work to develop life-saving treatments for these illnesses.

“The Boler and Parseghian families have been valued members of the Notre Dame family for many years, and we are tremendously grateful to them for their generosity,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “The work of this center to find cures and therapies for those who suffer from rare and neglected diseases aligns perfectly with our institutional goal to use our research capabilities to make a genuine difference in the world.”

There are thousands of rare diseases, which are defined by any disorder that affects fewer than 200,000 people, and include cystic fibrosis, thalassemia, Niemann-Pick Type C and several rare forms of cancer. Neglected diseases — such as tuberculosis, malaria and lymphatic filariasis — afflict billions of people, mostly in the developing world. In both cases, however, there are few therapies, drugs and vaccines available to treat these illnesses.

Notre Dame’s center is composed of faculty from College of Science departments, such as biological sciences and chemistry and biochemistry, that have researchers with experience in vaccine development and medical chemistry; from College of Engineering departments with expertise in drug delivery platforms; and faculty from the College of Arts and Letters and Center for Social Concerns who are involved in outreach to patient communities and social development programs.

The Boler family gift is from the Boler family, led by Matthew and Christine Boler, Matthew’s sister Jill Boler McCormack and her husband, Dan.

Matthew Boler is a Notre Dame alumnus and the president and chief executive officer of The Boler Company. He is a member of the Notre Dame Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council. Christine is a registered nurse. Together, they are the parents of three children.

Jill McCormack also is a Notre Dame graduate and a member of the University’s College of Science Advisory Council. She and her husband are veterinarians in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and the parents of four children, two currently at Notre Dame.

The gifts from the Bolers and McCormacks are made in honor of Matthew and Jill’s parents, John M. and Mary Jo Boler. John founded The Boler Company, headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, in 1977. The company, through its subsidiary, Hendrickson, is engaged in manufacturing medium- and heavy-duty mechanical, elastomeric and air suspension systems for the global commercial vehicle industry.

The Boler family said: “Our parents always demonstrated to us that in order to take on the most difficult challenges, we need to view them as opportunities for hope and change. We are honored to be able to join with the Parseghians and the University in this fight for those who often feel they have little reason for hope due to a lack of cures and therapies for rare and neglected diseases. This is a tremendous challenge, and our family can think of no better way to honor our parents.”

Dr. Michael and Cindy Parseghian established the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in support of research to find treatments or a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) disease, the genetic disorder that has taken the lives of three of their four children. Michael, the son of legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian, is an orthopedic surgeon in Tucson, Arizona, and a member of the College of Science Advisory Council at Notre Dame. Cindy is president of the research foundation and a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees. Both are graduates of Notre Dame, and Cindy received an honorary degree from the University in 2009. The gift from the Parseghians is made in memory of their children, Michael, Marcia and Christa Parseghian.

“The Notre Dame community has embraced our family as we struggled with the loss of our three children,” the Parseghians said. “Notre Dame is unique in its mission to serve the disadvantaged, including the millions who struggle with rare and neglected diseases. We are blessed to be part of this great community.”

The Parseghians and their foundation have previously made gifts in support of NPC research at Notre Dame. The Boler and McCormack families were generous supporters of the Compton Family Ice Arena.