by Buck Institute

A small foundation has a huge impact on Buck educational programs


Established in 2015, the Navigage Foundation is just getting its feet wet when it comes to supporting efforts to enhance and improve the lives of older adults.  The Foundation’s support of Buck educational programs highlights the rewards reaped by all parties when a philanthropic partnership hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Starting with its first grant in 2017, the Foundation has invested $500,000 in the Buck/University of Southern California PhD program, providing stipends and curriculum support for students enrolled in the country’s first PhD program in the biology of aging.

“Navigage’s support is having an enormous impact on our program,” says Gordon Lithgow, Buck professor and Chief Academic Officer. “It makes it easier for faculty to find slots for the PhD students in their labs and it ups the level of optimism about the program and increases our ability to further develop the curriculum.”  There are currently twenty PhD students on site at the Buck; the current Navigage funding supports seven students in their first year of the program.

“We’re very enthused about the Buck,” says Navigage board member Judy Vallas.  “One of the reasons is that the feedback from the Buck has been so educational and forthright. They want to keep us informed and involved.”

Vallas, who has a background in education, lives in Marin. She and other Navigage board members have made personal connections with staff and students at the Buck.  Vallas knows most of the grad students by name. “It’s exciting to follow the progress of these young scientists and to be a part of what they’re doing.” she says.  “Supporting them supports my own efforts to stay active and engaged.”

“We are so grateful that Navigage is invested in the success of our PhD program,” says Lisa Palma, director of Institutional Advancement at the Buck. “It is rewarding to develop an ongoing partnership that has such tangible results.  Our PhD program still has plenty of room to grow and we’re hoping that other individuals and organizations will follow Navigage’s lead and support our educational efforts.”

Navigage is also investing in a dynamic new educational program for older adults at the Buck.  The Foundation provided $60,000 in seed money to pilot a lifelong learning program on the biology of aging which takes place in our Learning Center.  Vallas is among the 20+ older adults who are attending six weekly sessions developed by the Buck’s science educator Claire Spafford and taught by Buck scientists. “Navigage’s mission also supports opportunities for ‘timeless living’ for older adults,” says Vallas. “We want to challenge the cultural definition of aging. We’re never too old to learn new things. These classes are great. I love attending them!”

Stay tuned for dates of the next lifelong learning course session at the Buck. The Institute also hopes to eventually offer the course online. Those interested in supporting the program should contact Lisa Palma.  lpalma@buckinstiute.org

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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