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LeadingAge to honor 'Dear Abby'

January 28, 2015
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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LeadingAge will honor Jeanne Phillips, writer of the syndicated “Dear Abby” advice column, March 16 at its second annual Great Minds Gala in Washington, D.C.

Phillips; her late brother, Edward Phillips; and an anonymous donor will receive the 2015 Proxmire Award, which recognizes national figures judged to have demonstrated leadership and to have positively affected public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The anonymous donor gave $10 million to the Mayo Clinic to build the Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in honor of Jeanne and Edward Phillips’ mother, the late Pauline Phillips, who originally created the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren for the “Dear Abby” advice column in 1956. Pauline Phillips began showing signs of the disease in the mid-1980s, and her daughter began sharing work related to the advice column in 1987. Pauline Phillips died in 2013.

“One of my mother’s most powerful pieces of advice for a struggling caregiver was, ‘Dear Desperate, You are not alone,’ ” Jeanne Phillips said in a statement. “After watching my mom struggle with this disease for more than 25 years, I’m humbled to be honored at this event, which celebrates those who tirelessly ensure that people like me and my mother are never alone.”

Diane Rehm, host of the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio, will serve as master of ceremonies for the gala, a fundraising event held in conjunction with LeadingAge’s PEAK Leadership Summit.

The Proxmire Award was originally envisioned by Ellen Proxmire to honor her late husband, Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI), in whom probable Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed in 1994. Proceeds from the gala will be equally distributed between the LeadingAge Innovations Fund and the Copper Ridge Institute for the creation and advancement of dementia programs. Sen. Proxmire lived at Copper Ridge the last five years of his life.

At the inaugural Great Minds Gala in 2014, the Proxmire Award was presented to the family of Glen Campbell, members of which have advocated for research, education and support related to Alzheimer’s disease since 2011, when the disease was diagnosed in the country singer. Sharing the award was film director/producer James Keach and producer Trevor Albert, who made a documentary about Campbell's career and experiences with Alzheimer’s disease.

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