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Bayliner founder donates $50 million to dementia research

J. Orin Edson

J. Orin Edson

J. Orin Edson, who turned Bayliner Boats into one of the country’s leading boat brands, has made a $50 million donation to Arizona State University. Edson and his wife, Charlene, will donate $25 million to ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and $25 million to the Biodesign Institute to fund research on the causes and cures for dementia, according to the Arizona Republic.

The paper said the nursing college will be renamed the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. A new center will be called the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education, named for Charlene's mother, who was a nurse.

The focus on dementia care and research is personal to the Edson family, though ASU declined to give any details. "They have a personal involvement with dementia, that’s all I can say," Gretchen Buhlig, chief executive officer of the ASU Foundation, told the paper.

Edson founded Bayliner Boats in the 1950s, built it into a national brand and sold it to Brunswick Corp. in 1986 for $425 million. Forbes, which lists Edson’s net worth as $1.3 billion, reported that he invested much of the money into “stocks, bonds and Arizona real estate.” He also bought Westport Shipyards, grew the brand and sold it in 2014.

The Edsons have given more than $65 million to ASU since 2003, Buhlig told the paper.

“We believe in ASU’s interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to finding solutions,” the family said in a statement. “We look forward to new discoveries and solutions to better the quality of life for people affected by brain disease and the heartache of those that love them.”

The Edsons also run the J Orin Edson Foundation, which supports the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Mayo Clinic and ASU Foundation, according to nonprofit filings. The couple started the Northwest Organization for Animal Help, an animal shelter in Everett, Washington. Charlene is chairman of the board.

The most recent donation will allow ASU to bring experts from various disciplines to advance research and treatment on dementia.

Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute, told the paper the donation will fund two types of work at the institute. One will be focused on causes and diagnosis of dementia and the other on ways to help dementia patients, their caregivers and families.

“The Edson family’s generous gift helps to position ASU as a leader in tackling one of the most challenging health issues of our time,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow in a statement. “Our belief is that it will serve as an example of how investing in research for the common good makes possible new breakthroughs, better outcomes and faster progress on a whole host of important problems facing society.”

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