UAMS Institute on Aging Reaches $5.6 Million Expansion Goal

By David Robinson

The Reynolds Foundation gift funded a four-floor expansion on top of the existing four-story UAMS institute. The 55,000-square-foot project will be completed in early 2012, and the $5.6 million will be used to support the education and research programs in the new space.

“We are ecstatic to be making this announcement,” said Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Reynolds Institute on Aging and chair of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine. “Achieving this enormous goal is a testament to our purpose on behalf of aging Arkansans, to our generous donors and to our fundraisers who worked so hard to make it happen.”

The fundraising effort was led by The New Challenge Campaign Committee, a core group of institute supporters. After donations of $1.5 million from Jane and Frank Lyon Jr. in February, followed by $1 million in June from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, a series of smaller gifts completed the $5.6 million total.

“We are all so appreciative of the kindness of Arkansans and our supporters who have helped sustain and strengthen this institute over the years,” Wei said. “Thanks to their selfless efforts, we are poised to make great strides toward improving the lives of all aging adults.”

Under terms of the gift, the Institute on Aging was required to raise the local match before moving into the new space.

When the Lyon gift was announced, Frank Lyon noted that his parents, Frank and Marian, and Jane’s parents, Henry and Helen Thomas, all were beneficiaries of the advanced geriatric care provided at the Reynolds Institute on Aging.

The Lyon and Thomas families’ gratitude previously led to a $2.5 million gift in 2007 that established the Thomas and Lyon Longevity Clinic at the institute.

“The Reynolds Institute on Aging has been invaluable to the quality of life for our family,” Lyon said. “It is my hope that the tremendous care, research and education that it provides will continue to expand on behalf of all Arkansans. We see this donation today as an investment toward that goal.”

UAMS also announced in August that the Reynolds Institute on Aging had received $5.5 million for a new research center there whose work will improve standards of care for the elderly. The five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging establishes the Arkansas Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), one of only 13 such centers in the United States.

Led by Wei, the new center will be located in the additional laboratory, training and administrative space provided by the expansion. The center will seek better ways to maintain or restore independence to older persons by addressing the weakness of the cardiac and skeletal muscles that occurs as a result of aging or age-related diseases.

Arkansas ranks in the top three states for deaths due to heart disease. Heart disease also is the No. 1 killer of older women and men, and as people get older, more women than men die of heart disease. In addition, Wei noted, Arkansas is No. 1 in the disparity of poor health outcomes for cardiovascular disease based on measures of socioeconomic and geographic status.

“Based on these facts, we in Arkansas must embrace this effort to improve the cardiovascular health among aging Arkansans anyway we can,” Wei said. “We will partner with other care providers and come forward with new, innovative treatments as we gain a better understanding of cardiovascular disease.”

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 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. Visit or

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed over $200 million to improving the lives of elderly people in Arkansas and throughout the United States.