Following his struggle with bipolar and tragic death in 2001, the family of Detroit automotive entrepreneur Heinz Prechter has donated $5 million to the University of Michigan Depression Center, with a commitment to match donations up to an additional $5 million to help resolve the stigma behind mental illness.
Fifty years ago this spring, Prechter moved his company to Detroit to answer consumers’ demand for sunroofs in their vehicles. While doing so, he privately struggled with bipolar disease, and his wife, Wally Prechter, has continued to address the “lack of scientific understanding” about his illness by donating and raising money for the U-M bipolar research fund in her husband’s name.
Today, the university named the bipolar research program for Heinz Prechter, in honor of the up to $5 million gift made by the World Heritage Foundation- Prechter Family Fund. The family will also match every dollar given to bipolar research up to $5 million, doubling the value of every donation and making the Prechter family’s gift more accessible to researchers.
“I think that if you can — if you truly believe in something — you owe it to yourself to help, to give, and to make a difference. Because ultimately, that is all you leave behind,” says Wally Prechter.
Committed to increasing scientific understanding of the disorder and helping people with bipolar disease live healthy and productive lives, the Prechter family’s donation will grow the endowment that provides for the continuation of the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder, which has been ongoing for 11 years. The program allows researchers to track symptoms and responses to treatment, and record the overall health of more than 1,200 patients with bipolar disease as part of a long-term study.
“I deeply appreciate Wally Prechter’s commitment to advancing bipolar disease research that will give hope to millions of people around the world,” says Dr. Mark Schlissel, U-M president. “The Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program will enhance the University of Michigan’s longstanding research initiatives and drive new medical discoveries to combat this devastating disorder.”