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White Castle couple pledges $10M for autism research

Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer

In the face of a disorder whose cause and cure remain a mystery to doctors, Marci Ingram and husband Bill, White Castle Systems CEO, have pledged a $10 million donation for collaborative autism research to Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The creation of the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders was announced to approximately 150 supporters Tuesday afternoon in the Performance Hall of the Ohio Union.

Marci, a member of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Board of Directors, described to the audience a rise in the odds of children in the U.S. being affected by autism. Marci said that in the past, autism was thought to affect one in 10,000 children. The probability has risen to one in 110, with one in 70 boys affected, she said.

Chris Ingram, Bill and Marci’s 18-year-old son, was diagnosed with autism 14 years ago.

Jamie Richardson, White Castle Systems Vice President of Government and Shareholder Relations, described the personal nature of the Ingram family’s donation and their desire for others to contribute.

“Bill and Marci have given us a tremendous example of giving back, but also in terms of their openness and in their honesty and their willingness to be vulnerable,” said Richardson, “It’s not easy facing something difficult.”

Marci described the changing face of diagnosis, noting that when their son was diagnosed, doctors advised them to keep the issue quiet. They kept their secret for more than a decade.

“Those years of staying quiet were agonizing,” Marci said.

Stephen Petrill, a professor of human development in the College of Education and Human Ecology, expressed enthusiasm for the grant. His son was diagnosed with autism in 2003.

“A lot of opportunities exist for students, irrespective of their area of study,” Petrill said. “I hope many will get involved.”

OSU President E. Gordon Gee spoke on behalf of OSU. He expressed gratitude toward the Ingram family and eagerness at the possibilities that lie ahead.

“This puts us at the forefront of autism research in this nation, and for that we are eternally grateful,” Gee said.

Julie Cecys, president and co-founder of the OSU chapter of Autism Speaks U, the first student chapter of Autism Speaks in the nation, talked about past efforts to raise awareness. Cecys said the grant would help draw attention to autism and their organization.

The donation will be made incrementally, with $1 million made available in spring this year.

When asked how their son felt about this donation, Bill Ingram said, “He’s OK with it.”


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