Every great cause needs a great patron, and the International Retinal Research Foundation has been fortunate in having two of the most generous. Dr. David Rich and his wife, Loris, were active in philanthropy for more than four decades, generously sharing their time and gifts throughout the Birmingham community. Before the incorporation of the International Retinal Research Foundation, the Riches were already a driving force for equipment purchase, construction and indigent patient care at the Eye Foundation Hospital (EFH). Additional donations were made toward the construction of a professional office building and parking deck for the EFH. The Loris and David Rich Lecture Series in Visual Science was created to provide the exchange of information so critical to significant research.
Dr. Rich had developed cataracts and early macular degeneration and Loris also developed age-related macular degeneration, but to say that their own impairments were the catalysts for their giving would be an underestimation of their philanthropic spirit. After David’s death on August 20, 1993, just weeks before the Rich Lecture Series could become a reality, Loris made another generous contribution to create The Rich Retinal and Eye Disease Research Fund for vision research conducted at the Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital.
It was at this time that Loris began to devote her energies and wealth to establishing the International Retinal Research Foundation. As macular degeneration patients, Loris and David understood the importance of dedicated research in this area and upon Loris’s death in September 1999, the IRRF received a grant of nearly $30 million to carry out its mission of funding retinal research. Since 1998, the IRRF has granted more than $9.2 million in support of scientific investigations targeting all structures of the human eye, with emphasis on finding the causes, prevention and cure of macular degeneration. Scientists across the United States, and as far away as Europe, Japan and Australia receive research support.
During their lifetimes, Loris and David Rich had the foresight to invest in those causes they felt were important for the continued welfare of Alabama’s citizens. However, in supporting the International Retinal Research Foundation their impact is now felt around the world.
The most recent legacy of Loris and David Rich is the establishment by the IRRF of the Dr. David and Loris Rich Postdoctoral Scholar Award, a one-time award given annually in the amount of $35,000 for salary support or supplies. The award targets young postdoctoral scientists nearing the end of their training and is critical to the Foundation’s mission.