ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Barney and Vada Oldfield met at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and enjoyed their life together. Their legacy continues with a number of funds that provide perpetual support to the university, its faculty and students.
For two decades, a research fund has supported the efforts of leading research scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the pursuit of treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, devastating brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually prevents one’s ability to carry out simple tasks. Experts estimate that more than 5.5 million Americans may have the disease.
Col. A. Barney Oldfield started the fund with a gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation in the 1990s by establishing the Vada Kinman Oldfield Alzheimer’s Research Fund for the UNMC Division of Geriatrics. The permanently endowed fund forever honors his wife, Vada Kinman Oldfield, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 11 years before her death in 1999.
Later contributions by family members, friends and the Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation, along with market investment, have increased the endowment to nearly $400,000, ensuring it will support Alzheimer’s research until a cure is found. With foresight typical of the Oldfields, once a cure is found for Alzheimer’s disease the fund will be redirected to battle other disorders associated with aging.
Jane Potter, M.D., professor of internal medicine, geriatrics and palliative medicine at UNMC, said the first 20 years of the Kinman Oldfield Award have helped launch the careers of many successful research scientists.
“For many, this was the first research award that they received,” Potter said. “The award provided support to collect pilot data that then was the seed for applications to other foundations and government funders. It has done what Col. Oldfield intended. He was a great believer in kick-starting careers and setting people in the right direction.”
2019 Kinman Oldfield Alzheimer’s Research Award recipient announced
The Kinman Oldfield Alzheimer’s Research Award is conferred annually as a $10,000 stipend to an individual with promising new ideas in Alzheimer’s disease research.
David E. Warren, Ph.D., assistant professor in UNMC’s Department of Neurological Sciences, is the 2019 recipient of the Kinman Oldfield Award and was recognized during an event on April 22. He researches potential treatment for memory loss in healthy and nonhealthy older adults by combining neuroimaging, neurostimulation and neuropsychology.
A moderate decline in the memory of facts and events is a normal part of aging, Warren said, but amnestic mild cognitive impairment is a severe, clinically relevant type of memory loss that frequently precedes Alzheimer’s disease.
“Loss of memory abilities is devastating for people, but the few treatments available for memory loss provide very limited relief,” said Warren, whose research team includes medical students interested in the field of memory loss treatment.
“We are applying a type of noninvasive brain stimulation that we believe has potential to improve memory abilities among people with mild cognitive impairment who do not yet have Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “By testing whether this type of stimulation improves their memory abilities more than a placebo, we will determine if it will reliably improve memory. So this study is a key first step that will support our long-term goal of applying the same approach to people with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease.”
2019 Reagan Alzheimer’s Scholarship recipients announced
The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation also established the Nancy and Ronald Reagan Alzheimer’s Scholarship Fund Award at UNMC to honor Ronald Regan, the late U.S. president who battled Alzheimer’s disease.
The 2019 recipients of the Reagan Alzheimer’s Scholarship are doctor of medicine students Carly Faller, Claire Ferguson and Ran Jing. They each serve on the leadership team for the UNMC Purposes of Aging Interprofessional Group and were honored at an April 22 event.
Faller is a third-year medical student from Lincoln, Nebraska, who’s mentored by Warren. Her research focus is on the effects of targeted transcranial magnetic stimulation on hippocampal-dependent declarative memory in older adults.
Ferguson is a third-year medical student from Omaha, Nebraska, who’s mentored by Natalie Manley, M.D. Her research is focused on a feasibility study regarding virtual reality and dementia in patients.
Jing is a third-year medical student from Shandong, China, who’s also mentored by Warren. Jing’s research focus is on the effects of targeted transcranial magnetic stimulation on memory performance in older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment.
New faculty support chair in Alzheimer’s disease announced
The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation recently announced its commitment to establish the Kinman Oldfield Chair in Geriatrics at UNMC. Once fully funded, this permanently endowed fund will provide annual support to a renowned faculty member dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease research and teaching.
“The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation is pleased to carry on Col. Oldfield’s vision of a cure for, and the eradication of, Alzheimer’s disease,” said Warren Odgers, Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation trustee. “This commitment to the Kinman Oldfield Chair in Geriatrics also furthers a goal of the foundation to support educational opportunities for Nebraska students.”
The Oldfields, including the family foundation they established to carry on their charitable objectives, have provided philanthropic support to the University of Nebraska for nearly 30 years. In addition to their support for students and faculty at UNMC, the foundation contributed to the new Home Instead Center for Successful Aging, home to UNMC’s geriatrics division and geriatric patient care.
In addition to support of UNMC, the Oldfields also established funds that benefit students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, including scholarships for students in the Hixson–Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and students in the Army ROTC program.
Beginning a life together in Nebraska
Col. A. Barney Oldfield and Vada Kinman met in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they were both studying at the University of Nebraska. The 1933 graduates would go on to be generous supporters of their alma mater through various scholarship funds and programs across the university system.
A native of Tecumseh, Nebraska, Barney Oldfield had a career in the U.S. Air Force as a communications officer and then became a public relations executive for Litton Industries in Woodland Hills, California. Founder of the Nebraska Dollars for Scholars program, he is a legend in the public relations field and counted many celebrities on his list of close, personal friends, including President Ronald Reagan and boxer George Foreman. Oldfield died in 2003, leaving a legacy in educational philanthropy that includes the University of Nebraska and other higher education institutions.
Vada Kinman Oldfield was from Grand Forks, North Dakota. During World War II she enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, becoming a pioneer in what would become the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. She served in the 12th Air Force Communications Section in Africa and Italy.
In both military and civilian life, the Oldfields made philanthropy their passion, giving generously of their resources and inspiring others to do the same. The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation continues their philanthropic legacy today.