Funding neuroscience: Drs Joe & Ruth Matarazzo | OHSU Foundation

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There are few donors today who have supported OHSU for as long as Drs. Joe and Ruth Matarazzo. The Portland couple has served the university in a number of capacities over the years – Joe as a life trustee of the foundation’s board, and both as longtime faculty members. When the couple retired from OHSU in 2007, their combined service to OHSU totaled 100 years.

A history of leadership and discovery

The Matarazzos joined OHSU in 1957 when they were recruited from Harvard Medical School to establish the nation’s first academic department of medical psychology. Joe chaired the department for the next 40 years while working to advance the field as president of numerous scientific and professional associations at national and international levels.

Ruth, a specialist in neuropsychology, joined as a founding faculty member and served for 45 years as a distinguished OHSU faculty researcher, clinician and advocate for women in science. When the department was renamed the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, both continued to serve as professors. Ruth held leadership positions in local, regional and national psychological associations, and in 2007 she received the Presidential Award of the American Psychological Association for her lifetime of professional contributions and public service.

Investing in neuroscience

In 2003 the Matarazzos established a fund to support the work of the department where they had spent their careers. They had originally intended to complete gifts to the The Ruth G. Matarazzo Professorship in Behavioral Neuroscience through their testamentary plans. But in 2014 the Matarazzos decided to collapse and forfeit the income from their deferred gifts, contribute an additional $400,000 to fully fund the Professorship during their lifetimes, and later hope to evolve the Fund into an endowed Chair.

The Matarazzo Professorship was previously held by Robert Hitzemann, Ph.D., who will step down from the position at the end of the year and continue to serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine. The endowed position now goes to Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., who was recruited from the University of Pittsburgh and starts at OHSU in January 2017.

“It is exciting to me that Dr. Moghaddam is such a distinguished scientist,” said Ruth Matarazzo, “and that her interest is increasing our understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying the development of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. It is our hope that the Professorship may help us to retain her.”