Mary Barton Smith

Mary Barton Smith

Mary Barton Smith of Portola Valley, California, has always been a driven person, but two events gave her new perspective and even more purpose. First, her mother developed Alzheimer's disease and experienced a painful 10-year decline before passing away in 2009. Second, her husband, Rodney Smith, former CEO and chairman of Altera Corporation, was killed in a bicycle accident in 2007. "Now I think you never know what might happen," she says. "If you want to make a difference, you've got to do it now."

Mary and Rodney made their first gifts to the Alzheimer's Association shortly after her mother was diagnosed, and Mary continues to support local awareness, care and support programs. She joined the Alzheimer's Association Zenith Society in 2011 and has made multiple Zenith-level investments in research over the years, enabling the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) and its Next Generation and High-Dose Escalation studies (led by Dr. Randall Bateman, pictured with Mary), as well as Longitudinal Evaluation of Amyloid Risk and Neurodegeneration (LEARN), and U.S. POINTER studies. In selecting which research projects to support, Mary is grateful for the guidance the Association's medical and scientific relations team provides. "As a donor, all I have to do is decide how I want to be involved," she says.

"If you have experience with this disease, and so many people do, there's no excuse — you've got to take action," Mary adds. "If you're really committed to ending this disease, don't just give once. Sit down with the Association every year and ask, ‘Where do you need support? What is going to make a difference now?'"

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Step Up the Pace is a special initiative to increase philanthropic investment in four key dementia research outcomes areas: Discovery Science, Early Detection, Treatment and Prevention.

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