In 1998, the Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis was established under the direction of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, with assistance from Deans William Peck and Shanti Khinduka of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Brown School at Washington University. Dr. Leonard Berg provided the initial leadership for these efforts.
Dr. Berg convened a meeting of scholars from the university with identifiable interests in aging or age-related topics, and later coordinated a series of focus groups organized around the themes of research, internal education, external education and community involvement. These discussions revealed strong desire to proceed with the institution of such a center, and yielded thinking that was incorporated into a draft mission statement and set of goals and objectives.
The consensus vision called for a “center without walls” that would not only build upon existing strengths at the university, but would also catalyze new innovations in education, research, practice and community outreach. It was agreed that the center should support cross-disciplinary collaboration toward the completion of this work and build relationships with community institutions interested in aging.
John C. Morris, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology and director of Washington University’s Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Knight ADRC), the Memory and Aging Project and the Memory Diagnostic Center, assumed leadership of the center as the founding director.
Under Morris’ leadership, the Center for Aging fostered – through pilot grant funding – several junior investigators on both the Danforth and Medical campuses who leveraged their center awards into larger grants from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The center also hosts the annual Friedman Lecture and Awards, bringing to Washington University in St. Louis nationally recognized leaders in the field of aging. At the Friedman Lecture, in association with the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, the center presents the annual Kopolow and Friedman awards for outstanding accomplishments in the care of older adults.
The center also forged a productive partnership with the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College and has attracted undergraduate students from throughout the United States to participate in its Summer Aging Research program. Another project brought together the Center for Aging and the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. The ongoing Naturally Occurring Retirement Community demonstration project seeks to help older adults continue to live in their own homes. This collaboration led directly to a successful application to the NIA for a research grant to study the effects of exercise and cognitive training in improving everyday function.
In fall of 2007, the center was renamed the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging in recognition of Harvey and Dorismae Friedman’s support of the center’s efforts to create an environment for fruitful cross-disciplinary research.
In 2012, Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, (now named the) Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy, was appointed as the new director. At that time, the Friedman Center for Aging also became part of the Institute for Public Health.
As a leading research institution, Washington University has the capacity to make major contributions in the field of aging, and Professor Morrow-Howell is exceptionally well-positioned to extend the Friedman Center for Aging’s scope to the international stage.
According to Morris, “Establishing a university-wide center that focuses on the critical societal impact of our rapidly aging population has enabled many productive, interdisciplinary collaborations with highly accomplished gerontological investigators, including Professor Morrow-Howell. As a leading research institution, Washington University has the capacity to make major contributions in the field of aging, and Professor Morrow-Howell is exceptionally well-positioned to extend the Friedman Center for Aging’s scope to the international stage. My responsibilities in our Alzheimer’s disease studies have grown dramatically, so this is an ideal time to transition the directorship to her. Professor Morrow-Howell will also benefit enormously, as have I, from the remarkable support and friendship of the Friedman family.”