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Release: Immediate

Research on mental retardation funded by UI graduate's bequest

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A $150,000 gift from the estate of UI graduate Velma P. Bredahl of Exira, Iowa, will be used by researchers at the University of Iowa to study one of the most common causes of inherited mental retardation.

The estate gift to the University of Iowa Foundation created the Julius and Velma Bredahl Research Fund at the University of Iowa Foundation and will be used by staff members at the University Hospital School (UHS) to study the relationship between Fragile X Syndrome, a common genetic disorder, and severe behavior disorders. Fragile X Syndrome takes its name from an abnormality in the X chromosome. Experts estimate the incidence for Fragile X is one in every 1,200 males and one in every 2,000 females.

"This generous gift will provide the funding for an important study," said David Wacker, professor of Applied Behavior Science at University Hospital School. "We are planning a two-year study using facilities at the University Hospital School, the UI College of Medicine, the clinical programs of the Children's Hospital of Iowa, and through outreach to other children's health facilities in the state."

Velma Bredahl received a bachelor's degree from the UI in 1919. Her husband, Julius, received pharmacy degrees from Iowa in 1922 and 1924. After graduation, the couple moved to Exira, Iowa, where they opened a pharmacy and were active members of the community for many years.

Through their wills, the Bredahls established a trust, maintained by the Exchange State Bank of Exira, Iowa, that provided many years of support for their daughter, Carolyn, who was mentally retarded. Carolyn died in July 1996; her brother died earlier. The Bredahls specified that after Carolyn's death, a portion of the trust should go to the UI to support research for mentally retarded children.

Created by the state of Iowa 50 years ago, the University Hospital School provides health-related services to families and individuals with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, mental retardation, and behavior and communication disorders.

Collaborating with local, state, and national agencies and organizations, UHS staff work in community-based settings to meet the complex needs of people with disabilities. Staff also train health care professionals and others who work with children and adults who have disabilities; conduct research; and share information with individuals and organizations throughout the state. (UHS Web page:

The University of Iowa Foundation, the preferred channel of support to all areas of the university, works closely with alumni and friends to establish and maintain private resources that can be used for medical research, student financial aid, faculty development, and equipment and facilities projects in departments and programs across campus.