When Jerry and Rowena “Winkie” Mohn moved to Galveston almost 20 years ago they imagined a life whiling away the hours by the water.
That’s not what happened.
Jerry Mohn spent some mornings and evenings fishing, but it was the hours in between that left him restless. He took up beach conservation, forming his own associations, while both he and his wife also became involved at Ronald McDonald House and UTMB.
It was during a conference about coastal issues where Mrs. Mohn encountered her Pirates Beach West neighbor Dr. Kelly Dineley. The two began to talk. The Mohns knew Dr. Dineley and her husband, Dr. Larry Denner, were UTMB researchers, but they did not know exact details of their promising diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease work or the sometimes prohibitive costs of conducting research.
For Dr. Dineley and her husband, both of whom are PhDs, it was a fateful discussion that led to the Mohns’ initial gift of $56,000 in 2012 and a subsequent $70,000 gift last year. These gifts are just the latest example of the Mohns’ generosity to UTMB.
“They’re on the threshold of finding a cure for these diseases,” Mr. Mohn said. “We are lucky to be able to support them; I wish we had more funds for them.”
Drs. Dineley and Denner are studying the correlation between insulin resistance (diminished control of blood glucose because of improper insulin use) and memory disorders that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers used Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs in laboratory animal tests that were found to be effective during different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The pair has identified several drugs that affect memory issues during early to late stages of the disease.
“The Mohns’ gifts to our research enterprise are not only exceptionally generous but have provided us opportunities to pursue therapeutic strategies and research avenues in Alzheimer’s disease beyond the scope of traditional funding agencies,” Dr. Dineley said. “We are very grateful.”
Dr. Denner added: “These gifts could make all the difference in finding new treatments.”
UTMB President David L. Callender said he’s inspired by the Mohns and the depths of their commitment to the university as members of the Development Board, President’s Cabinet and the Galveston County Regional Leadership Council for the Working Wonders Campaign.
“The Mohns are among the most generous members of UTMB’s extended family,” he said. “We could not be more grateful for their involvement and support for this institution.”
The Mohns, who are part owners of a chemical distribution company, said they became interested in UTMB soon after they moved to Galveston from Houston. They said they and many of their friends relocated here primarily because of UTMB.
“We are all retired and when we consider the fact that one day we may need medical attention, we looked at other areas and we thought this area has exactly what we wanted in UTMB,” Mrs. Mohn said.
Mr. Mohn said that he intends to remain involved at UTMB as long as he lives on the island.
“I really feel UTMB is so important to Galveston, we just need to maintain and improve it,” he said. “It’s has done so much for the community besides being the largest employer.”