After their son suffered serious neurological injury in a surfing accident, Alana and Harold Shepherd (who runs one of the largest construction companies in Georgia) decided to build up a medical facility in the southeastern U.S. that could treat future victims of spinal trauma. They began with six beds leased from a local hospital. In 1987, while he was still running the Home Depot company, Bernie Marcus became active on the board, helping raise $22 million for a major expansion. Patients in a new field were taken on—those who had suffered brain injury.
Later, Bernie and Billi Marcus founded a program for patients being discharged by Shepherd after treatment of their trauma, designed to help them become self-supporting in their homes and work. When soldiers began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with specialized brain injuries, the Marcus Foundation funded another special program at the Shepherd Center to offer them intensive assistance. Major gifts from the Robert Woodruff Foundation and other donors also helped build the Shepherd Center into one of the leading hospitals in the country for rehabilitation of spinal cord and brain injuries, with additional expertise in other neurological areas like multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The fruits of his giving to Shepherd and to autism (see 1991 entry) inspired Bernie Marcus, who grew up hoping to become a doctor, to make additional large gifts focused on research and treatment of neurological disorders. These include a $20 million gift to establish the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center in Atlanta, and $25 million to create a neuroscience institute in Boca Raton, Florida, dedicated to the study and cure of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders.
- Shepherd Center history, shepherd.org/about/history-and-mission