Gift to Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute advances Alzheimer’s research in memory of late WVU alumnus

MORGANTOWN — The family of a WVU alumnus has given a gift to WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to advance groundbreaking Alzheimer’s disease research.

The gift from Sharon Miller establishes the Miller Family Alzheimer’s Research Fund, which aids research focused on diagnosis and treatment. Her contribution honors her late husband, Marshall, who died Jan. 20, 2019, following a 15-year battle with the disease.

Marshall Miller

“Marshall graduated from WVU, and he loved West Virginia,” Sharon said. “With his illness, we just wanted to help other people that went through it. It’s hard, and we want the doctors to be able to find what starts everything, what happens and why it happens.”

The Miller family’s gift provides flexible support for RNI’s innovative clinical research efforts, which were featured earlier this year in an extended segment on “60 Minutes.”

RNI researchers are using focused ultrasound technology to deliver drugs where they are needed most to effectively slow and reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The advances we make with the innovative research supported by this generous gift become part of the comprehensive treatment approach we take for individuals living with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease,” said Marc Haut, director of the RNI Memory Health Clinic. “We offer the same new infusion therapies featured on ‘60 Minutes’ to all the patients who are eligible in our Memory Health Clinic and can receive the medications safely.

“The goal of the RNI,” he said, “is to safely but rapidly move what we learn from research directly to the citizens of the state and region we care for.  Because of support like this, we will continue to provide the most-advanced research and clinical care right here in West Virginia.”

The gift builds upon Marshall Miller’s lifelong legacy of support for WVU. He grew up in Bluefield, where his family was devoted to the Mountaineers. Spurred by his fascination with rocks and earth, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from WVU in 1966 and 1973, respectively.

Marshall met Sharon when he moved to Illinois for work shortly after completing his undergraduate degree. The couple later returned to the Bluefield area, where Marshall founded his own business, Geological Consulting Services, in 1975 with Sharon’s help. Later renamed Marshall Miller & Associates, the firm now serves over 250 clients around the globe.

Sharon said Marshall was a workaholic who loved what he did for a living. As his business grew, he received many honors and awards for his professional achievements, including an honorary degree from WVU. He also authored more than 25 publications on geophysical, geological and engineering topics, establishing himself as a leader within the field.

For over 30 years, Marshall made it a priority to give back to WVU with gifts to support the Mountaineer Athletic Club, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the WVU Alumni Association, the Mountaineer Marching Band and more. Among his most-notable gifts is a namesake professorship in geology, established in 2007.

Marshall served the university as a member of the WVU Foundation Board of Directors and the advisory board for the Eberly College. He also devoted his time to many community boards and charitable causes.

Sharon, who now lives in Hilton Head, S.C., said she hopes her gift makes a difference for other families battling Alzheimer’s disease.

“I just want to help other people,” she said. “Alzheimer’s is an awful disease. It’s tolerable for a long time, but it’s an awful disease for the people who are going through it because they’re frightened. They don’t know what’s happening. I feel for everybody who has to cope with it.”

Sharon and Marshall were married for 50 years. They have one daughter, Tracy.

The Miller gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the university and its affiliated entities. The foundation said Sharon Miller did not wish to disclose the amount of the gift.

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