UAMS’ Cornelia Beck Receives Endowed Chair

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Louise Hearn Gift Will Fund Geriatric Research

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas native Cornelia Beck, Ph.D., R.N., today became the inaugural recipient of the Louise Hearn Chair in Dementia and Long-term Care at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

The endowed chair was created by a $1 million donation – $500,000 from Hearn’s estate and a $500,000 match from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas. The chair will allow Beck to continue her national award-winning research on behalf of the elderly, especially those with dementia and in long-term care facilities.

“We are so grateful that Louise Hearn thought of the Institute on Aging, and I can assure her family that this investment will pay great dividends for aging Arkansans,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “Dr. Beck is a worthy choice to occupy this endowed chair. Along with her outstanding academic and research credentials, Dr. Beck’s compassion and dedication to her patients and students make her a national leader in geriatrics.”

David Lipschitz, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the UAMS Department of Geriatrics and director of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, said Hearn’s gift is a tribute to strong family ties.

Lipschitz noted that Hearn returned to Little Rock from Houston when she was in her 70s so that her nephew, Elwood Smith, could help care for her. “Arkansas forever will be the beneficiary of Louise Hearn’s generosity and Elwood Smith’s love for her,” Lipschitz said.

Born in 1924, Hearn grew up in Arkansas before moving with her husband, Vernon, in the 1950s to Houston, where they owned a printing company, were majority stockholders in a Houston bank and owned a cattle ranch and other property.
As Hearn planned her estate, family members suggested that her will include something to honor Arkansas. She was a patient at the Reynolds Institute on Aging and enjoyed its Ottenheimer Fitness Center, so a gift to the Institute seemed like an ideal choice.

“Louise was so pleased to know that her money will continue working; she was always concerned about putting her money to work,” Smith said.

For more than 20 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other foundations have funded Beck’s study of strategies to improve best practices in long-term care settings and to develop non-drug interventions to alleviate problem behaviors and promote functional independence in persons with dementia.

In 2001, Beck became the first nurse director of an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Center, one of only 29 such centers in the United States. The UAMS center, based at the Institute on Aging, gathered information on people with degrees of memory loss to share with other centers nationwide.

Beck serves as professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Geriatrics and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Nursing.

She has received the Distinguished Contribution to Nursing Science Award from the American Nurses Foundation and the Doris Schwartz Gerontological Nursing Research Award. In 2001, she received the Gerontological Nurse of the Year Award from the Arkansas Nurses Association. In 2003, she received the National Gerontological Nursing Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Beck also serves as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

Beck earned bachelor’s degrees in sociology and nursing, a master’s in nursing and a doctorate in gero-psychology.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor that can be bestowed by a university on its faculty. The first named chair was established in England in 1502, when Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, established the Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity at Oxford and Cambridge. An endowed chair at UAMS is supported with designated gifts of $1 million or more. A donor may name a chair in memory of a loved one or to honor a person’s accomplishments.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,430 students and 715 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit