World-renowned neurologist speaks to Alworth Fund, educators

Local high school teachers and counselors will hear a message Thursday about the importance of science and math education from a world-renowned neurologist and Alworth Scholarship recipient who grew up in the Northland and began his path to breakthrough research and treatments focused on tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Jerrold Vitek, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and director of the Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research, will speak to more than 90 teachers, administrators and counselors at the Alworth Memorial Fund’s biennial fall luncheon. The event celebrates the traditional Nov. 1 start of applications for scholarships from the fund as well as other scholarship resources throughout the region.

“We’re excited to have Dr. Vitek share his story and discuss his research,” said Patty Salo Downs, executive director of the Alworth Fund. “He is an example of how a commitment to science and math education can lead to not only career success but also breakthrough discoveries that positively impact people around the world. Mr. Alworth wanted to help students with outstanding scholastic ability prepare for careers benefitting humanity.”

Since 1949, the Alworth Fund has provided scholarships to about 5,000 northern Minnesota high school graduates pursuing science and math degrees. Marshall W. Alworth established the fund in honor of his parents.

Scholarships in the 1949-1950 academic year ranged from $300 to $800. Today, the fund annually awards 60 to 70 four-year $20,000 scholarships to local high school graduates majoring in math and science. In all, the fund provides an annual outlay to area students of more than $1.2 million, making it one of the most generous private foundation scholarship programs in a region known for academic giving.

Dr. Vitek grew up in Meadowlands, Minn., and received his medical degree and doctorate in neurophysiology from the University of Minnesota. His work has taken him to Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, the Cleveland Clinic and back to the U. of M. It has included research and treatment of Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and tremors, including through National Institute of Health grants. He is an expert in Deep Brain Stimulation and its application to neurological disorders.

His speech Thursday is titled, “Mending the Brain with Electricity.” In addition, current Alworth Fund scholarship recipients will speak about what they did, with support from their teachers and counselors, to prepare for the academic rigor of pursuing science and math degrees in college.

The Alworth Fund luncheon is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kitchi Gammi Club, 831 E. Superior St., Duluth.

To be eligible for a scholarship from the Alworth Fund, applicants must graduate from a high school in one of the following Minnesota counties: Aitkin, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Cook, Crow Wing, Lake, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis. Applicants also must: have a composite score of 26 or higher on the American College Test; have a minimum cumulative high school GPA of 3.5; commit to major in a math- or science-related field; demonstrate qualities of character, perseverance and ambition; and be from a family whose taxable income is less than $120,000.

Students can find full eligibility information at and apply online between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15.

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