Throughout his UPS career, Ken Jarvis overcame hurdles to rise through the ranks to become a senior executive leader. Now retired, Jarvis is drawing on that same moxie to invest in and raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and its impact on Black women.
You see, for Jarvis, this is quite a personal cause: He stood by the side of his dearest friend and beloved wife, Kay, of nearly 70 years as she courageously battled Alzheimer’s for the past 15 years. Mrs. Jarvis peacefully transitioned from life on April 14 in Plano, TX. She was a true servant leader, who realized the importance of serving and giving back. The couple shared a 73-year friendship and 69 years of marriage, Jarvis said.
As his wife’s best friend and longtime caregiver, Jarvis knew he couldn’t sit on the sidelines.
Jarvis became more intrigued about the disease when an Atlanta-based MARCH Foundation board member, Norman Carmichael, sent him an article by Dr. Allen Levey, director of Emory’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The article described how African American women are more prone to getting the disease than others.
He traveled to Atlanta to learn more, and took action by establishing an endowment, the H. Kay Jarvis Alzheimer’s Research Endowment, in his wife’s name. The new endowment supports African American faculty doing research in the field of brain health at Emory and helps promote education and awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and brain health.
As part of Jarvis’ commitment, he pledged up to $50,000 annually in matching funds – a challenge grant for the money they would raise – to Emory University’s Brain Health Center. Over the years, more than $300,000 has been raised for the H. Kay Jarvis Alzheimer’s Research Endowment.
Among the most knowledgeable and passionate researchers is Dr. Monica Parker, director of both the Outreach, Recruitment and Education (ORE) and Minority Engagement Cores (MEC), of the Emory Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center of Emory University. Parker is dedicated to researching this disease and raising awareness in the African American community.
Jarvis and his entire family hope that his wife’s life will inspire people to give and participate in the much-needed Alzheimer’s research. There is no known cure for the neurodegenerative disease, which is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
“God gives us skills, he gives us talents, and we should use those talents to help in any way we can,” Jarvis explained.
Jarvis continues to work closely with Dr. Levey, and the multiethnic research team. Recently, Dr. Parker shared her expertise as the guest speaker for the MARCH Foundation Board of Directors during a visit to Alabama State University, a Montgomery-based HBCU. At that time, MARCH also donated to the endowment. Jarvis and a group of retired Black UPS executives launched the foundation in 1997. They have distributed over $2 million in grants and scholarships impacting more than 2,000 students. Giving back to medical research aligns with their mission.
Jarvis spent extensive time with the research team discussing the challenges of the research. This led Jarvis to make a bold recommendation.
“I suggested to him [Levey] that they may want to start a program visiting the black churches in Atlanta, and telling them the Alzheimer’s story,” Jarvis said. “They jumped on board with that. They went to two of the largest predominantly black churches in metro Atlanta and made a presentation on their research to 7k people.”
This marked the impetus for impact, Jarvis said. Participation in research skyrocketed. A podcast was launched. Plus, a minority men’s health discussion series took off.
Jarvis’ commitment to Alzheimer’s research and education is indicative of his life’s journey. He served as board chairman of Texas Health Plano, and the Plano Civil Service Commission. Jarvis also serves as key board member for the Plano Symphony Orchestra. He led missions for a Dallas church.
Volunteerism runs in his DNA, he said, dating back to his grandfather’s Masonic work, and his parents’ insistence on giving back to others with their time, money, and gifts.
“Volunteerism is in our blood,” Jarvis said. “I feel that everybody has a responsibility to make our life better for those around us in any way we can and use the skills that God has given us to help others.”
Contributions in memory of Kay Jarvis may be made to the H. Kay Jarvis Alzheimer Research Endowment, 1440 Clifton Rd NE Suite 170, Atlanta, GA 30322-4001. Please include this allocation code with donations: 76212501.