Jennie L. and Richard K. DeScherer

A Couple with a Deep Commitment to Each Other—and to a Cause

The DeScherers' remarkable journey began when Jennie developed signs and symptoms of illness as a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina. It took nearly a decade to get a formal diagnosis: systemic lupus erythematosus. Jennie recalls reaching out for support to what was a fledgling organization at the time: The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. "It was a lifeline for me," she says. "I couldn't wait to call and talk to someone who was facing the same illness and was doing something constructive about it."

Thirty-five years later, that lifeline is still there for thousands of others, from communities in New York City and Los Angeles to countless visitors to the Foundation's website. Caring for the lupus community is just one part of the Foundation's dynamic growth that can be attributed in large measure to the determination and dedication of the DeScherers.

Under Dick's firm and focused guidance as Board president, the Foundation has become a bicoastal organization gaining crucial insights into the cause and cure of lupus. "We are extremely proud of what the Foundation has accomplished—cutting edge research, our social service programs, which include two model lupus cooperatives in New York, a vibrant office in Los Angeles and award-winning public awareness programs, including our website," he explains.

But of all that has been accomplished, the DeScherers are proudest of the research advances. The Foundation lays claim to supporting the nation's largest nonprofit, non-government lupus research program, as in 2000 it emerged as a major force in creating the Lupus Research Institute (LRI), of which Dick and Jennie are both founding members. "We're encouraging brilliant minds and eager researchers to work in lupus," Jennie says. "But we still need to do more."

In addition to Board activities, Jennie oversees the distribution of emergency access grants to people with lupus in underserved communities. She also continues her lifelong involvement in the arts through various board memberships and associations. Dick, Co-Chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, is an active member of numerous distinguished boards in addition to the Foundation and the LRI. The couple has two grown children.

The DeScherers' unyielding commitment to scientific breakthroughs in lupus and the care of patients is an achievement of exceptional proportions, and we are deeply grateful to them for it.

Photo Credit: Jesse Winter