Neil Alexander, a financial planner who worked with the University of Pittsburgh to create the Live Like Lou Center for ALS Research, has died of the disease he fought to cure. He was 49.
Alexander died Tuesday, officials at the Live Like Lou Center said. The center was formed last month to work toward a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative nerve disease named for baseball player Lou Gehrig.
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"Neil really got it," said Peter Strick, the scientific director of the center, which is based at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. "Neil understood that to make any progress, it's going to depend on discovery and basic research."
The center is named after a charity founded by Alexander and his wife, Suzanne. The Pittsburgh-area couple started the Live Like Lou fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation a few months after Neil Alexander was diagnosed with the disease in June 2011.
The couple has pledged to raise $2.5 million, half of the center's startup cost.
Alexander named his charity after Gehrig because he admired the player's courage in dealing with the disease, but those who knew him said he exhibited the same traits.
"He knew that he was helping the next guy, that it wasn't going to be in time to help him and that's incredibly courageous," Strick said.
Alexander, who lived in nearby O'Hara Township, worked for five years as a Los Angeles police officer after graduating from Fordham University. He moved to Pittsburgh with his wife and attended law school at Pitt, then joined Hefren-Tillotson, in 1999 where he eventually became director of financial planning and chief operating officer.
The couple celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on March 24, 2012, by launching their Live Like Lou fund.
"Neil and Suzanne, when faced with this diagnosis, made a choice," said Merritt Holland Spier, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the ALS Association. "Hand in hand, they turned around, and nothing was going to stop them. I've never seen them look back. I've never seen them be sad."
Funeral arrangements were pending Wednesday. Alexander is also survived by two children, Abby and Patrick.