Maria Shriver

UCI MIND Honoree

Suzy Melin

Community Leadership Honoree

Maria Shriver is a mother of four, an Emmy & Peabody award-winning journalist and producer, a New York Times best-selling author, an NBC News Special Anchor and the founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.

Shriver is one of the premier Alzheimer’s advocates in the United States, with over 14 years of boots-on-the-ground activism, journalism and personal testimony about the disease and the future of America’s brains. Her father Sargent Shriver was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2003 and passed away in 2011. Since then, she has used her family’s story as a means to help the millions of other families affected by this devastating disease.

Shriver founded The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement — a global alliance of individuals, organizations, researchers, foundations, influencers and industry leaders — to answer the question of why two-thirds of all brains with Alzheimer’s belong to women. She launched Move For Minds, her annual live event in partnership with Equinox, to challenge women and men in cities across the U.S. to raise funds for women-based research and awareness of the body-brain connection.

In addition to reporting on Alzheimer’s for NBC News, Shriver has released groundbreaking reports of her own that shed new light on the impact of the disease. In 2010, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s was the first to report that Alzheimer’s disproportionately affects women.

Shriver has also written New York Times-bestselling books and produced award-winning film and TV programs that have furthered the public’s understanding of this disease. She executive produced the Academy Award-winning film, “Still Alice,” which stars Julianne Moore and tells the story of a woman affected by early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She also co-executive produced the Emmy Award-winning four-part HBO series “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which premiered in 2009 and exposed millions of people to the realities of the disease. One of the films in the series called “Grandpa, Do you Know Who I Am?” was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for exemplifying “television with a conscience” and was based on Shriver’s best-selling children’s book dealing with Alzheimer’s.

Shriver’s latest book, “Color Your Mind,” is the first-ever coloring book for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It was released in June 2017 and is filled with activities, brain-healthy tips and other resources for those with brain-related challenges and the people who love them.

In 2017, Shriver received the Alzheimer’s Association’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for being such an essential voice in the Alzheimer’s community. Shriver was also recognized with the association’s first-ever Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative Leadership Award in 2016.

Shriver believes we all have the ability to create positive change and that business and media can be used as a force for good in the world. She uses her voice and her for-benefit media enterprise, Shriver Media, to highlight Architects of Change — individuals who challenge what is, imagine what can be, seek to make a difference and move humanity forward.

Shriver is the former First Lady of California and a graduate of Georgetown University.

The unique story of our friends, Suzy and Arthur “Spud” Melin, illustrates the longstanding partnership between UCI MIND and a family affected by Alzheimer’s disease, a family who has remained dedicated to the pursuit of treatments, prevention, and a cure.

In 1989, the Melin’s were referred by their family physician to Dr. Carl Cotman and his team at UCI MIND hoping to identify the cause of the puzzling memory and behavior problems that troubled Spud Melin.  They learned the devastating news that his symptoms were characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.  Spud was in his early 60’s and enjoying his retirement.  Eager to help researchers gain a better understanding of his illness, Spud and Suzy decided to participate in research.  And so, their bond with UCI MIND began.

Spud and Suzy were living a life of adventure.  Spud co-founded the toy company, Wham-O, that brought the joy and fun of the Frisbee and Hula Hoop to tens of millions of people around the world.  Suzy was closely involved in promoting the company, joining with her exceptionally creative and business-savvy husband who introduced new toys and sports that swept the nation and the globe since the midcentury.

The diagnosis and course of the disease were very difficult for the Melins, however, they continued to visit the UCI MIND Memory Assessment and Research Center for thirteen years to help increase scientific knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease.  At the same time, Suzy participated in caregiver support groups and was dedicated to helping others better understand how to cope with the illness. When Spud died in 2002, the Melins donated his brain to research and UCI MIND neuropathologists confirmed his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Since Spud’s passing, Suzy has maintained strong ties with UCI MIND by becoming a research participant herself in the Successful Aging Program.  She, too, has decided to donate her brain when she passes with the hope that her participation in research will benefit her family as well as our society.

Suzy is also philanthropically engaged and has donated generously to UCI MIND over the years.  One gift in particular supported the establishment of the National Alzheimer’s Disease Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cell Bank at UCI MIND, and she recently contributed funds to launch the Suzy and Spud Melin Family Endowment, which she hopes to see grow and expand as a legacy to her husband, Spud, as she involves her five daughters, 11 grandchildren and 12 (and counting!) great-grandchildren.

With a partnership spanning more than 27 years, Suzy Melin stands out as a loyal friend of UCI MIND, a friend who inspires our investigators helping to make our research efforts possible, in both the research lab and the clinic setting.  Suzy and Spud Melin’s story is inspiring.  They have been faithful friends of UCI MIND.