Grounded in hope

The construction of a new building began on the northern side of the USF campus Tuesday morning.

“The brilliant idea of Johnnie Byrd to start a statewide institute was two or three years ago,” said Huntington Potter, CEO of The Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center & Research Institute. “That has since taken some time to get state funding. It’s taken a year and a half to design the building. So we’re now at the culmination of many people’s hard work to develop the best building for research. We expect that when it’s finished that it is likely to be the largest freestanding building in the world dedicated to Alzheimer’s research.”

USF President Judy Genshaft was on hand for the ceremony and described it as “a time where we’re seeing a vision become a reality.”

Construction of the center should be completed in the summer of 2006.

Six stories tall and surrounded by a four-story glass atrium nicknamed “the cube,” the center will be a striking feature along Fletcher Ave. Dr. Potter expressed why the construction of such a “monumental” Alzheimer’s research institute was necessary.

“We have about 250,000 Alzheimer’s patients in Florida, and it costs the economy about 10 billion a year, he said. “This is not a problem that can be managed. It’s a problem that has to be solved, and we will solve it.”

The $20 million needed to fund the construction of the building is provided by state and other government agencies, private donations and fundraisers.

“This building represents the state’s commitment to solving this problem for its people,” Potter said.

To caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, Potter said the groundbreaking represented “hope that we will put the resources and the efforts into alleviating their suffering as well as the patient’s suffering.”

The Byrd Institute was founded by former Speaker of the House Johnnie Byrd Jr., who was inspired to help find a cure after his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s.