The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a $2.7 million gift from the estate of Eleanor Karam to support Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Founded in 2000, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging’s world-class geriatricians care for thousands of patients each year. It maintains a statewide network of seven regional Centers on Aging, including the Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program.
The institute focuses on research in memory loss, neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular health and nutrition. The institute is also nationally recognized for educating and training geriatricians at the Department of Geriatrics in the College of Medicine.
Karam became familiar with UAMS when she and her husband, Jimmy, sought care closer to home. She reached out to her friend Ginger Wilson, wife of former UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., then dean of the College of Medicine. Wilson referred them to the Institute on Aging. From that point on, they started receiving all of their routine care at UAMS, and they relied on UAMS when her husband became seriously ill. Even after Jimmy’s passing, she stayed in touch with many of his nurses.
When Karam was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she received care at the institute, with Dr. Jeanne Wei, director of the institute, as her personal doctor.
“Ms. Eleanor was a true visionary with a huge heart,” said Wei. “Her love of seniors will help our clinicians better understand the aging process and delay or reverse age-associated memory loss and Alzheimer’s dementia. UAMS and all mature Arkansans are most fortunate indeed. We are deeply grateful to her and her siblings John and Jean for their generosity.”
Eleanor Blakney Karam was born in Helena, Arkansas, in 1929. She was a graduate of Little Rock High School (now Little Rock Central High School), Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), and Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.
Her husband, Jimmy Karam, led the Little Rock Junior College Trojans football team to a 1949 national championship before becoming a successful businessperson. The couple were married nearly 50 years before Jimmy’s death in 2000. Eleanor Karam died in 2019 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Karam was a longtime supporter of UAMS and the Institute on Aging dating back to its founding and was a member of multiple giving societies, including the Chancellor’s Circle, Society of the Double Helix and the 1879 Society. She supported the new hospital for UAMS Medical Center during its construction in 2008 and later named a patient room in memory of her late husband.
“This gift is to help families in the future – patients and families – to make it easier to understand older people,” said Jean Maier Dean, her sister. “I think there’s a lot that the younger generations don’t understand about the aging process, and there needs to be a lot of education on how to care for the elderly.”