MJFF Board member Frederick “Shad” Rowe of Dallas, Texas, likes to make the most of an opportunity. So perhaps it’s unsurprising he would co-found an event to leverage his business expertise and contacts — and raise funds to speed a cure for Parkinson’s.
Shad built a career in the investment business, and currently serves as managing partner of Greenbrier Partners, Ltd. Over the years, he has attended many events for investors, where well-known money masters share their insights. Following his diagnosis with Parkinson’s in 1998, he got an idea: He could host his own symposium.
Shad and his good friend and business associate John Neill both had a cause close to their hearts. For Shad it was The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and for John it was The Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation (VMYDF), which provides programs for low-income youth in Dallas. In the fall of 2007, they hosted the inaugural Great Investors’ Best Ideas (GIBI) Investment Symposium as a premier investment forum in Dallas. They underwrote the event’s costs so that every dollar they raised through ticket sales would support the two organizations.
Last October, Shad and John hosted the sixth annual GIBI event, with more than 1,100 attendees; this year’s event is on October 29. To date, they have raised more than $6 million, split between MJFF and VMYDF. Shad says, “GIBI has taken on a life of its own. Along with raising a lot of money, it’s raised awareness for both causes. I happily admit that one of those is self-serving — a cure for PD.”
Shad feels fortunate that he’s able to maintain a full schedule with Parkinson’s, though he has made some adjustments. “You assess your priorities and figure out how to achieve them,” he says. Among these is talking with the newly diagnosed. “Life isn’t over. Parkinson’s can be coped with. Find a good movement disorders specialist and take the time to get the meds right.”
Through his service on MJFF’s Board of Directors, he stays up to speed on the latest in research. He admits his frustration that a cure hasn’t come faster. But he knows the Foundation’s sheer focus and global perspective will yield results. “Your first inclination is often to support the doctors and hospitals you know, which is only natural. The problem is there’s a lot of duplication among scientists. I choose to support The Michael J. Fox Foundation because you get more bang for your buck. They’re a clearinghouse for all PD research, which is more efficient and more effective,” he says.
“My advice? Stay active and find others with the disease. Parkinson’s has actually made me a better person. It’s funny how it can all fit together.”