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Profiles in generosity

David Emmes, SM ’76

Olympia, Washington

October 24, 2023
David Emmes
M Scott Brauer

David Emmes studied mathematics as an MIT graduate student but has long been interested in how the brain enables faculties such as learning, memory, planning, decision making, insight, and creativity. This interest became more focused as three extended family members succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that impairs these capabilities in more than 6 million Americans. When he learned about the neuroscience research happening at MIT, he was inspired to direct his philanthropy toward the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Tackling the big picture. “I am impressed by MIT’s approach to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, looking at the brain as a system and trying to understand how these diseases progress and affect individual functions of the brain,” says Emmes. The study of “systems” comes naturally to him: during a 29-year career at IBM, he designed and developed enhancements to its operating system created for large enterprise computer workloads, and he became co-inventor on 15 US patents.  “MIT researchers are intense, focused, and dedicated,” he says. “Their perseverance makes any investment both productive and worthwhile.” 

Fueling research today and tomorrow. Emmes shares the MIT research community’s excitement at the prospect of creating specialized treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the gifts he’s already made, he has made a bequest in his estate plans to support neuroscience research at MIT. “These research initiatives are multi-decade efforts that I value and wish to support beyond my lifetime,” he says.

Help MIT build a better world. For more information, contact Amy Goldman: 617.253.4082; Or visit

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