Shad and Michele Rowe made a generous gift to Southwestern Medical Foundation that will help scientists decipher the workings of the human brain at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute (OBI). The Rowes are hopeful that new discoveries will someday end the devastating toll of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s (PD) and other movement disorders. They hope to have a significant impact on Parkinson’s research advancement due to their personal connection to it.

Their gift is especially meaningful to Mr. Rowe, who was diagnosed with PD at UT Southwestern Medical Center 22 years ago. Since his diagnosis, little progress has been made in treating PD, but the Rowes have confidence in the potential for brain discovery at UT Southwestern where the study and treatment of brain diseases is an institutional priority.

“I want to do something to eliminate Parkinson’s because it is personal. There is no real knowledge of what causes the disease, there are no definitive tests to diagnose it, and doctors can only manage symptoms. We believe our investment into the O’Donnell Brain Institute is a solid one that can reduce a lot of misery for people with Parkinson’s and other brain diseases as well,” he said.

Shad and Michele have been a true inspiration in every way. They share a deep concern for others and are determined to make life better for future generations. We are committed together to funding the work that will bring about progress in treating and curing Parkinson’s.

Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation

Three dimensional image showing how parkinson's research can uncover new information about neurodegenerative diseases.
Parkinson’s disease. 3D illustration showing neurons containing Lewy bodies small red spheres which are deposits of proteins accumulated in brain cells that cause their progressive degeneration.

The Fight Against Parkinson’s Disease

After his diagnosis, Mr. Rowe faced the disease head-on. In 2007, he joined the Board of Directors of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, a nonprofit organization started by the actor who was diagnosed with Young Onset PD at 29. He has stood amongst an enthusiastic army of supporters who are leading the charge to improve therapies through Parkinson’s research. “I wanted to do something on a national level to fight Parkinson’s. My interactions with the Michael J. Fox Foundation helped keep me informed of the latest science,” he said.

He became motivated to support brain research and Parkinson’s research at a local level through his longtime client and friend, Peter O’Donnell, who has been a generous friend to Southwestern Medical Foundation and for whom the OBI is named. Mr. Rowe and Mr. O’Donnell possess similar business and philanthropic acumen, and they share a strong belief that talent drives progress, which leads to groundbreaking discoveries. They both admire the work of Dr. William T. Dauer, an acclaimed physician-investigator in PD who joined the UTSW faculty in 2019 as the inaugural Director of the OBI and who is now Mr. Rowe’s physician.

The commitment of both the University and the surrounding community, with Mr. Peter O’Donnell at the forefront, is really unparalleled in any environment I know of. The dedication to make brain science an important priority at UT Southwestern – not just for one, two, or three years but for the enduring future – to change the lives of people with brain disease, I think will be the key ingredient for success.

Dr. William T. Dauer, Director, Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute 

Advancing Parkinson’s Research

In the past decade, there have been many important advances in brain science to help scientists further understand how the brain works and how diseases disrupt that function. Dr. Dauer is confident these advances will lead to new therapies to lessen suffering or to prevent disease altogether.

“One of the exciting advances has been to use new neuroimaging techniques to look inside the brain, both in humans and animals in experimental research. Related to that are a suite of new tools that allow us to manipulate specific sets of brain cells. For example, in Parkinson’s, there are a few particular sets of brain cells out of billions that are really key to producing symptoms. The ability to study those in isolation is something new that could never be done before,” said Dr. Dauer.

Advanced imagery of a brain with as part of a parkinson's research representation.
MR image of human brain

Living His Best Life

Mr. Rowe’s roots run deep in Dallas, where he was born and spent most of his life. He earned a B.A. in history from Southern Methodist University, served as a Junior Officer in the U.S. Navy, and earned an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. His wife, Michele, was born and raised in Alice, Texas, and after graduating from Texas Christian University, she moved to Dallas, where the couple met. They married in 1976, settled to raise their family, and today, they are surrounded by the love of their four children and nine grandchildren who all live nearby. “We never really thought about living anywhere else,” Mr. Rowe said.

In 1985, Mr. Rowe founded Greenbrier Partners Capital Management, LLC, a Dallas-based investment fund, where he is Managing Partner. Prior to founding Greenbrier Partners, he was president of Rowe & Company, Inc. Investment Brokers / Bankers which he founded in 1978.

Today, Mr. Susser sees the impact of investing in medical progress in action, and it continues to inspire him and give him hope for a healthier tomorrow.

Throughout his successful career as a financial advisor and investor, he amassed a vast group of business associates and friends and has built influence as a leader in his field. His articles have appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Barron’s, Grant’s Interest Rate ObserverTexas Monthly and D Magazine. His comments have appeared in The New York TimesBloomberg MarketsThe Wall Street JournalThe Dallas Morning News, and on CNBC and Bloomberg Television. He is a committed public servant and has served in leadership positions on various boards throughout Dallas, the state of Texas, and the U.S.

Like others with PD, Mr. Rowe tries to live his best life.

I can feel my symptoms getting worse over the years. I have learned to keep moving with intent, which is a critical concept to living well with Parkinson’s. Using intention to purposefully focus on my movement and speech has improved my communication so I can articulate more clearly and precisely and control other motor movements such as walking and writing

Shad Rowe

And when he speaks about Parkinson’s disease, people listen. By supporting the OBI, he continues to use his strong voice to inspire a world where Parkinson’s disease will no longer exist through his support of Parkinson’s research. 

Through innovative research, UT Southwestern scientists are poised to make lifesaving medical and scientific advances to help those affected by movement disorders.

Shilpa Chitnis, M.D., Ph.D., and her research team are developing creative techniques to help patients unlock the full potential of deep brain stimulation, which has revolutionized the lives of people with PD and other movement disorders.

By studying how movement disorders originate and develop, William Dauer, M.D., M.S., and the Dauer lab are devising new therapeutic strategies for dystonia and PD with a focus on human disease genes using cellular, molecular, and mouse genetic approaches.

Richard Dewey, M.D., is investigating ways to slow down or stop the progression of PD through ongoing analysis of a large, longitudinal follow-up study of PD patients; an early phase evaluation of a novel agent that may increase energy production in people with PD; and a study of various imaging modalities to predict disease progression rate in PD.

The scientific work of Elan Louis, M.D., M.S., focuses on the epidemiology, genetics, clinical features, and pathophysiology of tremor disorders, primarily focused on the most common of these disorders, essential tremor.