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Miller family funds cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research at WVU

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) is pushing forward with groundbreaking Alzheimer’s disease research thanks to a generous contribution from the family of a dedicated WVU alumnus, Marshall Miller.

Sharon Miller, in memory of her late husband, has established the Miller Family Alzheimer’s Research Fund. Marshall, a WVU graduate, succumbed to a 15-year struggle with the disease on January 20, 2019. “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 fund will support RNI’s innovative clinical research, focusing on diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s. Notably, RNI researchers are utilizing focused ultrasound technology to deliver drugs directly, aiming to slow and reverse the disease’s effects. This cutting-edge work has garnered attention, including a feature on “60 Minutes.”

“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, Ph.D., 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 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.”

Marshall Miller, who spent his life supporting WVU, grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia. His fascination with geology led him to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WVU. After completing his undergraduate degree, he moved to Illinois, where he met Sharon. The couple then returned to Bluefield, where Marshall founded Geological Consulting Services in 1975, later renamed Marshall Miller & Associates, which now serves over 250 clients globally.

Sharon described Marshall as a workaholic who loved his work. As his business prospered, he received numerous accolades, including an honorary degree from WVU and authoring over 25 publications in his field.

For over three decades, Marshall prioritized giving back to WVU, supporting various programs such as the Mountaineer Athletic Club, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and more. One of his significant contributions is a namesake professorship in geology, established in 2007.

Marshall also served on the WVU Foundation Board of Directors and the advisory board for the Eberly College, along with numerous community boards and charitable causes. Sharon now resides in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and hopes her gift will make a difference for families grappling with Alzheimer’s.

“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 and have a daughter, Tracy. The Miller family’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, a nonprofit organization that manages private donations for the university and its associated entities.

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