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The Catalyst

Christie family endows first chair in College of Health Professions

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

The Christie family has set up the Christie Famly Endowed Chair in Stoke Rehabiltation Research.
The Christie family gathers at a special service at Grace Episcopal Church. They are Kathy Christie (daughter), left to right, Kathy Christie (daughter-in-law), Jim Christie, Stuart Christie, Alexander Christie, Sheila Christie and Barbara Christie.  photo provided

It has been said that actions speak louder than words. Every day, in many ways, the values parents hold dear are on display for their children to observe and mirror. For Stuart and Sheila Christie, the way in which they have chosen to invest their time, talents and treasure has said a great deal over the years to their children about what is truly important in life.

Stuart and Sheila raised their three children, Barbara, Kathy and Jim with the same ideals that had been passed on to them by their parents. Family, faith and traditions define what is important to the Christie family and for three generations, being active in their community and church has been an essential element of not only what they do, but who they are.

“Our parents impressed upon us the importance of giving,” said Sheila. “And giving is not just about money; it’s about investing time and energy as well.”

And that they have. Since moving to the Charleston area full time in 1992, they have been involved in many worthwhile community endeavors, adding to the growth and success of each.

In December 2013, the Christies made a weighty decision that will forever change the course of history for one of MUSC’s six colleges. The family contributed a personal gift that will establish the very first endowed chair at the College of Health Professions. The Christie Family Endowed Chair in Stroke Rehabilitation Research will allow for the recruitment of a renowned expert to further the research currently being conducted at the college in that field.

Lisa Saladin, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions, said, “We are most grateful to the Christie family whose generosity and partnership will forever impact our stroke rehabilitation research. Their support is truly transformational.”

Barbara Christie, Stuart and Sheila’s eldest child, serves on the Dean’s Advancement Council at the college. Owing to her professional background, which included the marketing and sales of neurosurgical equipment, she recognized the need for advanced research in stroke rehabilitation.

Last fall Barbara visited the college’s Center for Rehabilitation Research in Neurological Conditions and toured the laboratories. At the end of the tour, she could hardly wait to share with her parents the extraordinary things MUSC was doing for stroke patients. “I knew that my parents would be very moved by it,” she said, “especially with all that my uncle has endured.”

Donald Christie, Stuart’s brother, suffered a debilitating stroke during a carotid artery procedure, six years ago at the age of 76. To this day, he remains paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. Although he is able to maneuver through his daily routine, it takes a great deal of time and effort to complete even the simplest chore. He and his wife devised a sign language of sorts to communicate with each other.

The stroke has presented a very difficult situation for the family and Stuart shared a touching story.

“Prior to Christmas one year, the church my brother and his family attend had a special service for those with physical handicaps. As the congregation began to sing the processional hymn, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ much to everyone’s surprise Donald sang the hymn with everyone else. When it was time for the Lord’s Prayer, he recited the prayer aloud.”

After that service, his brother returned to not being able to speak.

Based on results of prior therapies, the Christies’ expectations were not high. But after visiting MUSC’s laboratories and watching first–hand the impact of the research, they knew they had to get involved.

Stuart said, “Dean Lisa Saladin took us over to see this program and it blew my mind. I have enough of an engineer’s mind to understand what they were trying to do and I was completely impressed by it. Later, I said to Sheila, ‘I think we need to do something.’”

On the tour, the Christies saw a stroke patient who was participating in a research study. The patient was harnessed into equipment that allowed him to walk on a treadmill. Watching the patient trying his best just to keep his balance and walk touched something in Stuart.

“That’s a soft spot in our hearts because of my brother. There was a motivation that was stirred up by seeing a man strapped in and wired to all parts of his brain that day. I thought to myself, back there somewhere (he motioned to his head) my brother remembered the Lord’s Prayer. I envisioned some of these wires picking up something in his brain. Even if this technology can’t help him, I know it will help others.”

As a result of the tour, Sheila was happy to learn that there was hope for people even years after their stroke. “I didn’t know they could take someone who had suffered a stroke years before and still help them years later. I knew they could help immediately, but to help someone five years out is astounding,” she said.

The dean and College of Health Professions faculty are ecstatic about the prospects of this newly endowed chair, and the Christies feel honored to be a part of something so life–changing.

Stuart said, “We believe in giving back and we will continue to do so. We’ve taught our children to give back and it’s very rewarding to see them engaged in their own causes. We’ve always stressed to them that it’s critically important to be personally involved.”

March 21, 2014

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