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Society Whispers: Salk Institute Hosts Musical Evening Under a Starry Sky

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla hosted their 10th Annual Fundraiser, the “Symphony at Salk,” last Saturday evening, with a lot of big brass in attendance. No it wasn’t just the big “big brass” VIP sponsors and Salk scientists; it was literally the big brass sounds trumpeting from the musical guests of the evening – The Canadian Brass. The Canadian Brass joined the San Diego Symphony for an event that can only be described as musical perfection under the stars.

It started with “pops,” not musical pops, but champagne pops. Glasses of bubbly and a view of the blue Pacific Ocean drew in VIP guests. Among them was Honorary Chair Francoise Gilot Salk, the international artist who was married to polio vaccine pioneer and Salk Institute namesake Jonas Salk.

Francoise was joined by quite a few of the Salk family, including Andres, Elizabeth, Ellen, Hugh, Jonathan, Michael, Paulina, Peter and Pia. Pia is the niece of Jonas Salk. Pia’s Uncle Jonas is estimated to have saved billions of people with his polio vaccine as well as paving the way for HIV/AIDS research. Pia, meanwhile, is working on saving the discarded pet population via her Web site,

Since 1955, the groundwork that Jonas laid with the Salk Institute is formidable, too. The Salk Institute has been privy to five Nobel Prize recipients. These Nobel Prize winners are Francis Crick for discovering the DNA double helix, which unfolded information as to the chemical structure of genes; Robert Holley for figuring out “genetic code and its function in protein synthesis;” Renato Dulbecco for “discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of cells;” launching “the era of recombinant DNA technology and the bio-technology revolution;” Roger Guillemin for “discoveries concerning the peptide hormone production in the brain,” leading to “growth factors that regulate the body’s physiological systems;” and Sydney Brenner for “discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death” leading to “identification of ‘cell death’ genes that play roles in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.”

A lot of brain power, but there are so many brilliant scientists at Salk. Among them is Dr. Terrence Sejnowski. Dr. Sejnowski’s research models physiological, mathematical, behavioral and anatomical data to more precisely understand how the brain works. Meanwhile, John Young at Salk is researching the window of opportunity to interrupt the HIV virus before it merges with a cell membrane.

Scientists at the Salk Institute consist of 300 postdoctoral fellows, 100 graduate students (representing 40 countries) and 2,000 alumni.

And it was a fun and tasty place to be on Saturday as 850 supporters and quite a number of volunteers enjoyed a delicious box supper of honey-glazed salmon with mango salsa, chicken roulade with chevre, fresh herbs and sun-dried tomatoes, a summer salad and divinely delicious, just-baked chocolate cookies with toasted walnuts. Dinner was prepared by Waters Fine Catering and served up with Orfila Winery’s “Ambassador Reserve” chardonnay.

Ambassador Reserve is a fitting wine name for a crowd that included many dignitaries. Among them, the now retired U.S. ambassador, the Honorable Charles Hostler, who is now the Honorary Consul General to the Kingdom of Bahrain. He was there with his wife, Chin-Yeh Hostler.

They were joined by Salk Institute President and CEO Richard Murphy, dynamic event chairwoman Betty Vale, creative director Mel Yoakum, Louise and Robert Hill, Teresa and Harry Hixson, Judy and Stephen Schreibman, Stephanie Sperber and Butch Florie, Karyn DeMartini and Jason Szman, Todd Sears, Elaine Murphy, Diana and Dave Geerdes, Teresa and Merle Fishlowitz, the owners of San Diego Magazine Jan and Jim Fitzpatrick, Audrey Geisel of the Dr. Seuss Foundation with Alex Butterfield, Jean Hahn Hardy, Helga Halsey of the maritime Halsey family and Sue and Lyle Kalish. More there included Naomi Klatt in her trademark lavender accompanied by her son, Joseph Dean Klatt, menopause expert and book author Ruth Jacobowitz, with her husband Paul, Scripps College alum and poet Natasha Josefowitz, Barbara and Neil Kjos, Stacy and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm, Reinette and Barbara Levine, Peggy Matthews, Lorna and Chris McKellar, Noni and Drew Senyei of Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, Nancy Gold and Fred Applegate, Kathryn Colachis of the Rancho Bernardo Inn and more, Linda and David Hale, Jean and Steve Hamerslag, Rita Bronowski and Odile Crick. Odile was happily married to Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick until his passing last year.

More inspiring minds at Salk Institute include Joanne Chory, Ronald M. Evans, Stephen Heinemann, Wylie Vale, Tony Hunter, Leslie Orgel, Inder M. Verma, Charles Stevens and Fred H. Gage. Fred is the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases.

One thing easier to understand for those who are non-scientists was the perfect La Jolla evening with the fabulous San Diego Symphony and The Canadian Brass. Before a note was struck though, guest Symphony conductor Thomas Wilkins had high notes of praise for beautiful La Jolla. The evening then turned to music as The Canadian Brass parodied each other from two sides of the Salk Institute before parading down to the stage. Then it was time for an earful of musical pleasure as the San Diego Symphony and The Canadian Brass performed their renditions of Beethoven’s “Prometheus Overture,” Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville Overture” and more, to the delight of all.

Monies raised by this event go toward funding biological research and very importantly, cures. Jonas Salk said it best: “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

Cheers to all of the patrons and volunteers for supporting the scientists who dare to learn more for cures.

To learn more about the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, please visit www.salk.edu

Margo Schwab, an alumna of the University of San Diego’s graduate business school, reports on social/charity events, celebrities, restaurants and from time to time breaking scoops.

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