The Wayne, Luanne and Peri Widener Fund for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases

A Huntsville family has established a named fund to support research at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Named funds at HudsonAlpha can be designated to support any of the areas that the Institute is researching, combining the passion of donors with the work of scientists.

The Wayne, Luanne and Peri Widener Fund for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases honors the memory of Wayne Widener. Neurodegeneration is a broad term for the progressive loss of structure or function, and possibly the death, of neurons. Some diseases that occur because of neurodegenerative processes include ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. Research about these incurable diseases will help unlock keys to possible treatments, and potentially, cures.

Family motivated by desire to help others

Wayne Widener lived for more than a decade with a rare neurodegenerative called corticobasal degeneration (CBD). After his diagnosis, Wayne and his family spent years consulting specialists before finally learning there is no known treatment. With the help of his wife Luanne, his daughter Peri, other family members and an amazing family doctor, Wayne continued to live life as fully as possible. He passed away on March 23, 2013.

“During the decade of Dad’s journey, we learned that there was no significant research into this family of diseases,” Peri said. “My mother and I are establishing this fund in an effort to shine a light on these rare and currently untreatable neurodegenerative diseases and to fund research that will hopefully unlock a treatment that will help others.”

There are more than 600 known neurodegenerative disorders affecting an estimated 50 million Americans. Researchers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology are actively working to identify the genetic causes of these disorders.

“HudsonAlpha has attracted globally recognized researchers who are focused on finding answers, treatments and perhaps cures for this family of diseases,” Peri said. “Even better, HudsonAlpha is a world-class organization in our adopted hometown. My father would be thrilled that such a renowned team has made it a priority to help others live with and beat these diseases!”

The Widener family story

Wayne Widener was born and raised in Cleveland, Oklahoma and attended high school in Wichita where he was quarterback for the Planeview Gremlins. Wayne attended Wichita State University and had a successful 42-year career with Boeing. He retired while serving as the director of contracts. The highlight of his career was working as the lead negotiator for Boeing on the original Space Station contract. His hobbies included golfing­ – he was the 1963 Wichita City Golf Champion – gardening and fishing. He was a devoted husband and father and loved spending time with his family.

Wayne’s wife Luanne had a multi-decade career as an office manager with a variety of large oil, gas and aerospace firms in Wichita, Kansas. Her final role before retiring to manage a lively teenager was serving as the office manager for A. E. Howse, the Mayor of Wichita. She was an active volunteer as a Girl Scout leader for many years, a youth leader at Grace United Methodist Church (Wichita, Kansas), a volunteer for the Salvation Army and a supporter of various animal rescue organizations.

Wayne and Luanne’s daughter Peri continued the family tradition of working for Boeing, joining the company in 1979. Peri currently serves as the vice president and general manager for Boeing’s Integrated Logistics division where she oversees a team of more than 5,000 people in 28 countries. She is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and has received numerous public relations awards and honors. She has also served on many local boards of directors for nonprofit organizations.

After Wayne became ill, he was able to stay physically and mentally active as well as socially engaged with the help of his wife, family, doctors, volunteer caregivers and friends. Wayne was determined to make something good come from a bad disease. He wanted to help others suffering from neurodegenerative diseases and asked his family to support research into finding treatments and cures.

How to donate to the fund

Donating to this fund will ensure Wayne’s request to financially support this important research is realized.

“Contributing to this fund is a way for you to help researchers learn how to treat and hopefully one day eliminate these diseases altogether,” Peri said. “Please support this fund however you can. Small actions can lead to big breakthroughs in understanding and treating these rare diseases.”

You may donate online at or mail HudsonAlpha a check. If you donate online, include a note in the Comment field indicating your donation should support the Widener Fund. If you mail a check, write “Widener Fund” in the memo area.

The minimum to establish a named fund at HudsonAlpha is a $25,000 gift to one of HudsonAlpha’s application areas. Individuals and families establishing a named fund will be recognized in the HudsonAlpha annual report, website and donor wall at the Institute. Donors will receive annual updates about developments in the application area they are supporting.