Elliott Marsh (BSA ’02, MAL ’11) is highly involved in his alma mater, serving on the board of directors of the University of Georgia Alumni Association and having been a president of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association, but his most recent commitment to the university is among his most personal.
For nearly eight years, Elliott’s father, Chris Marsh, suffered from Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. His mother, Annette Marsh, was Chris’s primary caretaker until she unexpectedly passed away from cancer. Throughout her husband’s illness, Annette struggled to find a diagnosis, care assistance at home and general information on care for dementia.
“My mom stood behind my dad, probably to her detriment,” said Elliott. “She sheltered all of us from some of the symptoms and issues that went along with his dementia and did not want it to take away from our lives.”
Following his father’s passing, Elliott, his wife Christy (BBA ’02), and their daughters Adison—a UGA student—and Annalee wanted to find a way to honor Chris and Annette’s memory while helping other families with similar medical histories. This drew the two to the UGA Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Center.
The CARE Center, a unit within the Institute of Gerontology in the College of Public Health, is a clinical, research and outreach space that delivers education on dementia risk reduction, conducts cutting-edge research and provides planning and support for persons with dementia and their care partners. Their team works to change dementia education, diagnosis, and support — expanding services to rural and underserved communities across the state. The mission of the CARE Center hit the Marshes close to home.
At a UGA Alumni Association board meeting last January, Elliott found himself in the College of Public Health listening to Marsha Davis, dean of the college, discuss the CARE Center and the impact it planned on having.
“I remember sitting there and almost starting to cry,” said Elliott. “What she described was exactly what my family needed.”
This impactful meeting convinced the Marshes that the CARE Center had the ability to affect millions across the state and the country suffering from dementia just like Elliott’s father. In memory of his parents, Elliott and Christy made a $25,000 gift to create the Chris and Annette Marsh CARE Center Student Support Fund to further the CARE Center’s life-changing mission.
“CARE faculty, staff and students see dementia differently,” said Dr. Lisa Renzi-Hammond, co-director of the CARE Center. “We see a Georgia with less care crisis, more access to early and accurate diagnosis, and in the long run, less dementia.”
“The Marsh family sees the same Georgia that we do, and their gift enables us to take students to the communities that need us most, allow students to see the beauty of Georgia’s rural communities, and form meaningful relationships with people in our rural communities that will change how our students approach their careers in health.”
Those who share the Marshes’ and the CARE Center’s aim to improve dementia outcomes can donate to the Chris and Annette Marsh CARE Center Student Support Fund.
“My parents modeled many traits in their lives including compassion, sacrifice, and commitment,” said Elliott. “They taught us to dream, care and counsel. Most of all they demonstrated and lived an undying love for each other and us. They touched many people in their lives, and I hope this gift helps to carry on that legacy of generosity and provide comfort to others in need.”