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Support from The Smith Family Foundation

The Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine is named in honor of the Smith Family. Their generous support has made it possible to bring genomic medicine to Huntsville, Alabama and beyond.

About the family…


Mark C. Smith graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1962 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He began a career in electronics with SCI in Huntsville, Alabama. He worked there up until 1969, when he put his life savings into starting Universal Data Systems, Inc., Alabama’s first data communications company. The success of this endeavor attracted the attention of Motorola and in 1978, he sold UDS to Motorola and stayed on as vice president of the UDS-Motorola Division.

In 1986, Mark and Lonnie McMillian co-founded telecommunications company, Adtran. In addition to his many business accomplishments in both Huntsville and throughout the state of Alabama, he was also an active philanthropist in his community.

Mark was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2000. This trying time in his life contributed to his interest in biotechnology. He signed up for an organic chemistry class at MIT so that he would have an educational background for his involvement with HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. He was one of the founding board members of the Institute and was on the building committee.

Mark died of complications from pneumonia on March 27, 2007. He is survived by his wife, Linda Smith, his daughter Cynthia Smith Hughes, his son Mark Clay Smith and eight grandchildren.

Clay Smith serves as the CEO of M.C. Smith Realty (MCSR), a real estate investment company he founded in 2003, that provides opportunities primarily in ground‐updevelopment for his investment partners and family. Clay is also the CEO of Smith Asset Management Company. Established in 2006, Smith Asset Management Company is a family office that manages the capital of the Mark C. Smith family and their affiliates.

Heavily involved in the Dallas‐Ft. Worth family office community, Clay established the Family Office Forum (FOF) in 2006. The FOF is a dynamic peer‐to‐peer group with more than 60 family offices that meet regularly to discuss the responsibilities and processes of a typical family office. The establishment of this forum has provided valuable insight and promote excellence in the typical family office environment.

Clay received his M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and his B.S. in business management from The University of Alabama. A strong advocate for education, Clay currently serves on the Board of the Episcopal School of Dallas and the Board of Visitors at the University of Alabama. He is a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church along with his wife, Cameron and their four children.

The Smith Family


The Singhal Family


Support from the Singhal family

To recognize the Singhal family’s generous gift, one of the clinic’s genetic counseling rooms is named in their honor.

Ashok Singhal, PhD, is principal founder and chairman of HudsonAlpha associate company CFD Research Corporation (CFDRC). Singhal’s family is the first to make a donation to support a room in the clinic and it’s mission.

“I supported the idea of a genomic clinic from its early conceptual phase,” said Ashok. “My family made this donation to the clinic because we believe in its mission. When you believe in something, your support has to be more than words and accolades.”

The clinic’s mission is not only to help patients and physicians find answers, but also to give patients the best clinical care and a positive medical experience. The Singhal family’s donation will help support the clinic’s work.

“We are very blessed to have healthy children,” said Sangeeta Singhal, Ashok’s wife and cofounder of CFDRC. “I can imagine how hard it would be for a parent to watch a child suffer. If we can be a part of helping children and parents, that’s a very big deal to me and a very big deal to our whole family.”

Support from Ray and Nancy Sheppard

The HudsonAlpha Foundation has received a $100,000 gift from Ray and Nancy Sheppard to support the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine. To recognize the Sheppard’s generous gift, Exam Room 1 is named in their honor.

“Ray and Nancy are incredible advocates for the Smith Family Clinic,” said Rick Myers, PhD, president and science director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “They’re really helping to lead the way in supporting the clinic, not just financially, but by sharing their passion for our work with others.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the Sheppards’ gift,” said David Bick, MD, medical director of the Smith Family Clinic. “Their ongoing enthusiasm for The Smith Family Clinic is very meaningful to us.”

Ray Sheppard, MD, is an OB-GYN surgeon and Nancy Sheppard is a registered nurse. They both have a strong interest in helping to advance the practice of medicine in our region.

“We’re all responsible for giving back in the world,” said Nancy. “Ray and I wanted to find a way to help the medical community and supporting the Smith Family Clinic was a logical choice. It’s win-win.”

“Of all the endeavors Nancy and I have an opportunity to support, we feel fortunate that we can provide this gift to help our community and to help families,” said Ray.

The vision for genomic medicine at the Smith Family Clinic is for whole genome sequencing to become an increasingly valuable tool not only for diagnosis but also for prediction and prevention of disease. This vision is important to the Sheppards.

“Supporting the clinic is personal to me because I just have a feeling deep inside that this is the start of something big,” explained Nancy. “I think we are at the beginning of a new era, much like what happened when Wernher von Braun’s team came to town and transformed Huntsville into the Rocket City. I’m just glad we can be here at the beginning.”

Rick Myers, Nancy Sheppard, Ray Sheppard and David Bick

Dr. Richard Myers, Nancy Sheppard, Ray Sheppard and Dr. David Bick


Ashburn Family Foundation board members John Ashburn and Chris Hinson

Ashburn Family Foundation board members John Ashburn and Chris Hinson

Support from the Ashburn Family Foundation 

The HudsonAlpha Foundation has received a $50,000 gift from the James Cecil and Margaret G. Ashburn Family Foundation to support The Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine. To recognize the foundation’s generous gift, the Check In/Check Out room is named in the Ashburn Family Foundation’s honor.

“Cecil and Margaret would have been so proud that their foundation is supporting the clinic. Cecil would have been especially proud that this work is being done in his hometown,” said John Ashburn, Cecil’s nephew and Ashburn Family Foundation board member. “We’re happy we can help carry out your vision.”

“I know Cecil would be so happy to support the work the Smith Family Clinic is doing to help patients and their families,” said Chris Hinson, an attorney specializing in estate planning who helped Cecil set up the family foundation. Hinson is also an Ashburn Family Foundation board member and a member of HudsonAlpha’s Professional Advisors Council.

Cecil Ashburn was born in 1920 and grew up during the Great Depression. He joined the Army right before World War II started. During the war, he learned the road construction trade. After the war, Cecil returned to Huntsville and started his own road building business. His company built many roads during Huntsville’s rapid growth, including U.S. Highway 72 West, most of Memorial Parkway and the runways at Huntsville International Airport. Ashburn set up his family foundation in the 1990s with the intent of helping the local community after his death. Ashburn died in 2012 at the age of 92.

The Check In/Check Out room is a private area where office staff meet with patients to go over paperwork and payment information.

“This donation really touched my heart,” said Carol Aiken, office administrator of the Smith Family Clinic. “Having a private area where I can talk to patients or their guardians is such an important part of providing a positive experience for our patients and their families.”

“For the Ashburn Family Foundation to provide funding to support the clinic is heartwarming,” said David Bick, MD, medical director of the Smith Family Clinic. “This clinic provides an opportunity to help children and adults who have been on a diagnostic odyssey. These patients have gone from physician to physician and spent years trying to figure out what’s wrong. This clinic’s purpose is to help those people. Thank you for supporting us and believing in our mission.”

Support from John and Patsy Shields

An exam room at the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine has been named in honor of John and Patsy Shields, longtime supporters of the HudsonAlpha Foundation and the work being done at the Institute.

The Shields, who founded Century Auto, have supported HudsonAlpha’s breast and ovarian cancer research for years through the Tie the Ribbons event and the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Fund. Patsy is a breast cancer survivor, making that area of research very important to the family.

But their philanthropic passion goes beyond breast and ovarian cancer research. This new gift supports genomic medicine at the Smith Family Clinic. The clinic sees children and adults with rare undiagnosed disease and utilizes whole genome sequencing to diagnose and identify new treatments for those patients.

“The clinic is vitally important not just to the many families it helps, but also for the City of Huntsville,” said John Shields. “We have a reputation for cutting-edge technological advancements, and the clinic demonstrates that forward thinking.”

“We are honored to  play a part in HudsonAlpha’s efforts to help those struggling with rare and undiagnosed genetic disorders and diseases,” said Patsy Shields.

“The John and Patsy Shields Exam Room is where we have some of our most meaningful interactions with patients. It’s where we get to know them and we begin to help them,” said Dr. David Bick, geneticist and chief medical officer for the clinic. “This gift truly will help patients directly.”

John and Patsy moved to Huntsville in 1969 to open their first car dealership. John retired as the company’s President and CEO in 1993 and was replaced at the helm by his daughter, Tracy Jones. Her husband, George Jones, serves as General Manager.

shields naming


Support from Dynetics

A visiting-physicians office at the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine has been named in honor of Dynetics, supporter of the HudsonAlpha Foundation.

Headquartered in Huntsville, Ala., Dynetics, provides high-tech products and services in an ethical, responsive, and cost-effective fashion to the national security, satellite, launch, automotive, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure sectors.

“We have watched this whole thing happen,” said David King, Dynetics chief executive officer. “We are very excited about what is going on at HudsonAlpha and the Smith Family Clinic. It has already had a huge impact on the state of Alabama and we are thankful that this team is here in our community. We have been looking for the right thing to do and we found it.”

This new gift supports genomic medicine at the Smith Family Clinic. The clinic sees children and adults with rare undiagnosed disease and utilizes whole genome sequencing to diagnose and identify new treatments for those patients.

“The visiting-physicians office is very important to the clinic and the collaborative process with visiting providers,” said Dr. David Bick, geneticist and medical director for the clinic. “The patients are very appreciative of what you are doing – this gift will directly benefit them.”

Support from Loretta Spencer

The HudsonAlpha Foundation has received a $100,000 gift from Loretta Spencer to support the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine. To recognize Spencer’s generous gift, the clinic’s triage room (a room where our doctor meets with and evaluates new patients) is named in her honor.

Loretta Spencer served as the mayor of Huntsville, Alabama from 1996 to 2008 and is actively involved in many local nonprofit organizations, including HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Spencer was the mayor when HudsonAlpha broke ground in 2005 and she has supported the Institute from the beginning. With her donation, she is expanding her support to include the Smith Family Clinic, the first clinic in the world to use whole genome sequencing exclusively to diagnose rare undiagnosed and misdiagnosed disease.

“HudsonAlpha means so much to me because I developed Research Park West when I was the chair of the Huntsville Planning Commission in the 1980s,” said Spencer. “I got research companies to come here, but establishing HudsonAlpha was the crowning glory that put biomedical on the Research Park map.”

Spencer is excited that the Smith Family Clinic has added yet another unique dimension to Research Park.

“When she served as mayor, Loretta was really adamant about expanding the types of things going on in Huntsville,” said Rick Myers, president and science director of HudsonAlpha. “Loretta wanted to broaden the economic base of Huntsville by making it more diverse, and that’s what we’re trying to do with life sciences here at HudsonAlpha. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Loretta’s vision and support.”

Spencer chose the triage room because of her experiences with Huntsville’s ambulance service (HEMSI). “When I was mayor I wanted to see how everything worked, so I would sometimes ride with HEMSI on Friday nights,” said Spencer. “I learned then that triage is so very important. I’m honored to have my name on this room.”

The triage room at the Smith Family Clinic is a spacious room designed to comfortably accommodate patients and family members on their first visit to the clinic. The room includes wheelchair accessible scales, electronic height measurement devices, an infant examination table and an infant scale.

“The way this gift will touch so many lives and positively impact so many children is something most people don’t really understand,” said Howard Jacob, executive vice president for genomic medicine at HudsonAlpha. “I want to thank Loretta on behalf of our patients and to thank her for making Huntsville a better place to live.”



Support from Jan Smith

The conference and training room at the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine has been named in honor of Jan Smith, supporter of the HudsonAlpha Foundation and the research being done at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

Smith, founder of Huntsville technical solutions company S3, Inc., supports many Huntsville community organizations with her philanthropy. This new gift supports genomic medicine at the Smith Family Clinic.

Smith explained her reason for the $250,000 gift to the clinic.

“If you only have research and you don’t use that research for the betterment of the community, your research in a vacuum,” said Jan Smith. “The beauty of HudsonAlpha and the clinic is they have a purpose to educate – they do the research and they share it to improve the quality of life.”

“The Jan Smith training and conference room is essential to our clinic,” said Dr. David Bick, geneticist and chief medical officer for the clinic. “We are able to gather as a clinic team, plan patient visits, discuss result outcomes and deliver results to families in that space.”

“There are not a lot of things that you can contribute to that you feel will improve people’s lives,” said Smith. “There are lots of things that I do in the community that add joy and serenity or excitement, but adding quality of life is here at the clinic and HudsonAlpha.”

Support from Mr. & Mrs. Foster Finlay Oliver and Mr. & Mrs. Foster Oliver McDonald

Thank you for support of the playroom in the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine.


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