Grieving Father Gives $6 Million for Alcohol Research

By Dirk Hanson 05/06/11

Owen Boris decided that the best thing he could do for the memory of his son, and for others in the same position, was to help fund addiction research.

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John Rennison/Special to the Hamilton Spectator.
Photo via thespec

This is a story about drug money—the good kind. Research into new methods of treating alcoholism and other addictions doesn’t come cheap, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Owen Boris of Hamilton, Ontario, lost a son to alcoholism. The Canadian businessman in Hamilton, a small city near Niagra Falls, understood what so many grieving parents do not. “My dad recognized that the the thinking component of the brain can’t function properly if the physical component is not functioning properly,” said Jackie Boris-Work, the sister of Peter Boris, who died at 42 of a heart attack and septic shock brought on by years of sustained alcohol abuse. “He had his first of many drinking and driving accidents at the age of 19 when he wrapped my parents’ new Nissan Maxima around a light pole” she told the Hamilton Spectator. He was very lucky to survive that one.”

Owen Boris decided that the best thing he could do for the memory of his son, and for others in the same position, was to give $6 million to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton for research. According to Dr. Robert Zipursky, vice-president of Mental Health and Addiction Services at St. Joseph’s, “Mr. Boris wanted this effort to begin with understanding the brain mechanisms that contribute to the development of alcohol addiction. He quite rightly identified that this is an important area of research internationally.” Unfortunately, Mr. Boris did not live to see the happy results of his efforts. He died on April 9.

The $3 million Peter Boris Chair in Alcohol Addiction Research is designed to “better understand alcohol use disorders and addiction to improve clinical care,” according to reports by the Hamilton Spectator. The other $3 million will endow the Peter Boris Alcohol Addiction Research Centre, which will “foster the link between research and clinical care of people living with addiction.”

We asked rehab expert Joe Schrank, The Fix’s Co-Founder & Editor at Large, about such acts of unexpected largesse. “This is unheard of,” Schrank said. “In many communities, cancer, Parkinson’s, and HIV have become fundraising machines for research and services directed at others inflicted with the same illness. Not so with alcoholism--we don’t have a walk, there are no ribbons, no 10k fundraisers.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]