Visionary Man Helps Others to See

When Jon B. Shastid was seeking to escape frigid Pennsylvania, he interviewed with the founder of a small winery out West. "I wouldn't touch that job with a 10-foot pole," warned a local banker. "He hires men, isn't satisfied and fires them."

But Shastid's instincts told him the vintner was going places. So he moved his wife and four kids to Modesto, Calif., to oversee finances for the modest operation. During the next 35 years, Shastid helped the man and his brother, Ernest and Julio Gallo, grow Gallo Winery into a billion-dollar business.

Such pluck defined the former Kansas farm boy, who grew up during the Depression. With limited education, he rose to captain in the Air Force, wed a society girl, and would later pass the California bar exam.

Despite his boldness, Shastid was haunted by a lifelong fear of going blind. Twenty years ago his fear was realized when he developed macular degeneration. The disease, which kills photoreceptors that convey visual signals from the eye to the brain, is the major cause of vision loss in the United States. It often strikes the elderly.

His children convinced their father to have surgery. "The operation worked wonders," says his eldest son, Jon G. Shastid. "Before, all was gray. He was so excited to see the colors in flowers again."

Shastid died in April and his wife, Natalie, in 1997. Now a bequest of more than $300,000 from the couple will establish an endowment to support research in retinal degenerative disease at the UCSF Department of Ophthalmology. It will also help fund a chair in honor of Alex Irvine, MD, UCSF professor emeritus of ophthalmology and one of the most influential retinal specialists in the country.

"My father had a great appreciation for sight," his son explains of the gift, which comes at a crucial time. An estimated 10 million Americans already suffer from age-related macular degeneration. As the aging population continues to increase, so too will cases of blindness associated with it.

"The Shastids' generosity will help us to expand our research programs in retinal degeneration," says Stephen McLeod, MD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. "Our goal is to develop new treatments to prevent vision loss from these disorders, so their support will benefit people in profound ways."

For information about making a planned gift to UCSF, contact the Office of Gift & Endowment Planning at 415/476-1475 or giftplanning@support.ucsf.edu.