Alan and Joan (Joni) Walne are proud to give back through their fund at Southwestern Medical Medical Foundation, which supports advances in Alzheimer’s research and treatment at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The idea of giving back is woven into the Walne family, spreading across generations. Alan Walne’s father, Herb Walne, owned the family business: Herb’s Paint and Body Shops. Mr. Walne was brought up with the idea that you give back to the community you live in, and the success they’ve seen from their business is but one way to give back – the other was through a gift of time.

Mr. Walne’s civic involvement in Dallas has been inspired by his mom and dad’s dedication to building a better community, and he and his wife, Joan (Joni), recently established a fund at Southwestern Medical Foundation for Alzheimer’s research at UT Southwestern came from a deeply personal experience.

When Mr. Walne’s mother, Frances, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their connection to Parkland Hospital helped them navigate to find a top-notch neurologist to treat her.

Once his mother began displaying symptoms, the Walnes went to see Dr. Anne Lipton, a neurologist at UT Southwestern. From explaining the diagnosis, to walking the family through where they were in the progression of the disease and treating everyone with an unparalleled degree of both professionalism and empathy – her compassionate care left a lasting impression.

Alzheimer’s is something you typically become passionate about when it touches you directly. Frances was a huge part of our family’s lives, and her legacy continues to impact us today.

Joan (Joni) Walne

Despite the heavy burden of the disease, the care that Dr. Lipton provided helped ease the process of getting through it as a family. Even during some of the darkest moments, Mr. Walne was able to find bright spots. “I guess one of the funnier moments was when Dr. Lipton had asked my mom, ‘Frances, do you know where we are?’ And she looked at her and she said, ‘Well, do you know where we are? Because if you don’t know, we’re really in trouble,” Mr. Walne said with a smile.

TAU PROTEIN DISCOVERY

Opening new doors for Alzheimer’s treatment

The root cause of neurodegeneration has remained one of humanity’s most puzzling questions. Yet, thanks to Dr. Marc Diamond and his team’s efforts in investigating the Tau protein at UT Southwestern, we are getting ever closer to the answer.

Read More

As much as he attributes Dr. Lipton’s expertise to alleviating his mother’s suffering, he also credits his wife’s compassionate care and kind heart.

“Obviously, I have a wife who treated my mother like she was her mother. From a caregiver’s perspective, she took the lead very much in making sure the right things were accomplished and we got to see the right people,” Mr. Walne explained. “I learned a great deal from her. I was just really blessed that I had Joni to lead that charge.”

From there, creating a fund for Alzheimer’s research at a leading medical institution like UT Southwestern seemed like a natural next step for the Walne family.

“I know everybody’s story is different, but I think that any and all research that can be done in this area seems so significant. Every day, it just kind of rips a little piece of your heart out, which most diseases do; there is not a good one to have,” said Mrs. Walne.

The couple’s hope for the Walne Family Trust Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease Research is to spur development of treatment options and accelerate progress in understanding. Although their ultimate wish is for a cure, they believe strongly in supporting research to improve care and treatment to help ease the suffering of those with this difficult disease.

Alan and Joni Walne are remarkable leaders in our city, investing significant time and attention to making this a happier and healthier place in which to live. Their tremendous contribution helping further the work of UT Southwestern in uncovering the mysteries of Alzheimer’s, is an inspiring tribute to a wonderful mother and the legacy she instilled in her family to help make things better for others.

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

Devotion to Dallas

While Mr. Walne is a native Dallasite, Mrs. Walne came to Texas from Colorado to attend Southern Methodist University (SMU) on a scholarship. She quickly fell in love with the city and made it her own.

“We love Dallas,” said Mr. Walne. “We’ve had the opportunity to be involved in lots of different aspects of our city. When there are things that interest us, we dive in. We invest where we feel a commitment – not only with resources but with time.”

Mr. Walne has a long history of volunteerism and civic engagement as a member of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and in many leadership positions including the Board of the Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Park and Recreation Board. He was elected to the Dallas City Council and served for seven years.

Mr. Walne’s journey with UT Southwestern Medical Center began shortly after his service on the City Council, when he received a phone call from Mike Cantrell, who was the County Commissioner at the time. Parkland Hospital was going through a revival, and Mike asked him if he would join the Board of Managers.

“I said, ‘Really, Mike, I don’t have any desire to do that. And I really appreciate the opportunity, but no, I don’t really think I want to,’” recalled Mr. Walne. To that, Mike responded with “Well, that’s great. You’re my guy then.”

Mr. Walne ended up serving on the Board of Managers for Parkland Hospital for the next seven years.

Despite his initial hesitation, Mr. Walne appreciated the push to become involved. “It was a very fulfilling time, being able to essentially be part of the team that put together the plan for building the new hospital,” he concluded.

Mr. Walne has also enjoyed his time as a member on the Board of the State Fair of Texas, which he Chaired for four years. “Other than the fact that I was a guy that burned Big Tex down, that was one of my claims to fame,” he added jokingly in reference to the 2012 electrical fire which engulfed the Fair’s cultural icon, a 55-foot tall cowboy named Big Tex.

Mrs. Walne has shared her husband’s passion for leadership and community involvement. She was appointed to the Dallas Park and Recreation Board where she served as Vice President and then President of the Board. She has Chaired the Board of the Dallas Zoo and in multiple leadership roles in PTA and booster groups in Lake Highlands, including as President of the Lake Highlands Women’s League. Mrs. Walne currently Chairs the Board of Kershaw’s Challenge, a charity with focus in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Africa.

Being on the Board of Parkland Hospital meant becoming intimately familiar with the important work of UT Southwestern. Mr. Walne views his position on the Board of Parkland Hospital as a vital link to the patient care and medical education taking place in the DFW region. “You don’t have to look far to find great opportunity,” said Mr. Walne.

From the number of outstanding doctors who graduate from UT Southwestern Medical School to the quality patient care being delivered by the UT Southwestern faculty at Parkland Hospital, he recognizes the need for, and value of, leading academic medicine in Dallas.  The opportunity to be involved and learn more about how UT Southwestern benefits families in this community has created a passion to support its success and give back.

Optimism for the Future

The Walne’s both remain inspired by the rapid progress and transformation they have seen in Dallas’ medical community.

The biggest reward is just to be an advocate for folks who don’t have that advocate and be in a position to help provide for those that deserve wonderful medical care or education. We see a lot of need. To be in a position to chip away at some of that is a rewarding experience.

Alan Walne

You can join the Walnes and other community leaders by making a gift to inspire progress in medicine.