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Remembering Joshua: A family’s gift for breakthrough research

Joshua Judson Stern

Joshua Judson Stern

Carl Stern (LSA ‘56) has been passionate about the University of Michigan since he arrived by train from New York to begin his freshman year. Two of his sons graduated from U-M in the ‘90s, and Carl, a steadfast fan of Michigan football, continues to travel from California to attend games each season.

Carl’s youngest son, Joshua Judson Stern, graduated from U-M in 1997 with a degree in economics and held a variety of jobs before enlisting in the Army at the relatively late age of 30. He went on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq. After his service, Josh traveled extensively throughout southeast Asia, bringing his keen sense of adventure and passion for new experiences everywhere he went. He established loyal friendships all over the world with his good humor, kindness, and gift for empathy.

When Josh took his own life in October 2010 at age 35, it took those close to him by complete surprise. Since then, Carl and his wife Jackie have been searching for answers. They've learned enough about Josh’s last few years to determine that he suffered from deep depression. “Nobody knew it,” says Carl Stern, who even retraced some of Joshua’s recent travels in 2011. While he didn’t learn a great deal more about the course of his son’s illness, Carl did meet many in the network of devoted friends who loved Joshua for his generous spirit and adventurous nature.

Carl Stern (R) during a visit to one of U-M’s stem cell research labs, with Melvin McInnis, M.D., principal investigator of the Prechter Program, and Sue O’ Shea, Ph.D., who helps lead the research

Carl Stern (R) during a visit to one of U-M’s stem cell research labs, with Melvin McInnis, M.D., principal investigator of the Prechter Program, and Sue O’ Shea, Ph.D., who helps lead the research

To pay tribute to their son’s memory, the Sterns established the Joshua Judson Stern Memorial Fund at the Depression Center. When asked what inspired them to give, Carl identified two key reasons. First, in the stem cell research they support, they find particular meaning in its potential to better understand the development and progression of a depressive illness, allowing for earlier detection and treatment. And second, the Depression Center’s mission to disseminate public education and outreach about depression and related illnesses is deeply and personally significant to them. “Jackie and I want to do anything we can to bring about greater awareness about depression, particularly so that other parents won’t have to experience what we have,” Carl says.

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