Center on Aging 40 Year History

The Center on Aging has a 40 year history at the University of Utah. The Rocky Mountain Gerontology Program/Center began on campus in 1972 as part of a five school consortium in Utah. Funding was provided by the Administration on Aging to help universities recruit and prepare both students and faculty to establish academic programs on aging. The grant proposal was submitted by Melvin White who served as the Director of the Consortium and Max Carruth, who served as Consortium Board Chair and Coordinator of the U of U Program. The Center was housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Science. Others who served on the Consortium board were Jerry Borup Weber State College- Coordinator), William DeHart (Utah State University- Coordinator), Phileon Robinson (BYU- Coordinator), and lver Moore (Utah State Division of Aging). Roy Van Orman served as the Community Programs Coordinator. The first graduates received their certificates (undergraduate and graduate) in 1975. While the consortium was dissolved in 1979, gerontology at the U of U survived a few uncertain years with Richard Connelly as the Acting Director and officially relocated in 1982 to the College of Nursing.

The 1980's were very good for the Center. Two large multi-year grants allowed the Center to grow in national stature and provided funding to maintain and build the faculty resources needed to survive. From 1982 to 1987 the Center served as the Intermountain West Long Term Care Gerontology Center (IWLTCGC) through funding from the Administration on Aging. Cecil Samuelson Jr. served as the Center Director from 1982-1985 and was followed by Margaret Dimond from 1985-1988. Josephine Kasteler was the Deputy Director from 1982-1986 and Kirsten Ball was the Coordinator of the Certificate Program from 1986-1991. The Center faculty developed and tested models of service delivery, conducted research, collaborated with other university and community professionals and offered educational programs throughout the intermountain region.

From 1985 to 1992 the Center also functioned as the regional Geriatric Education Center with funding from the Bureau of Health Professions. Along with these collaborative outreach programs the faculty obtained research funding from the Administration on Aging, the National Center for Nursing Research and the National Institute on Aging. These studies on family caregiving, intergenerational relationships and spousal bereavement resulted in numerous articles, chapters, books and professional presentations that brought national and international recognition to the faculty, Center and College. The 1987 Encyclopedia of Aging identified the Center as one of 11 early programs that grew in national stature during this time.

Although the numerous sources of national funding contributed to the survival and national stature of the Center, the projects did not allow much time or effort to be devoted to the Center's own academic programs. Through most of the 1980's the undergraduate and graduate certificate programs consisted primarily of a series of three courses and a practicum experience all taught or supervised by Kirsten Ball. After the GEC and IWLTCGC projects ended, the Center was able to secure two tenure track faculty positions and a regular state-supported budget. President Chase Petersen's decision to provide this hard funding support in 1987 was a valued and critical event in our Center's history. Also, in 1986 the Program officially received "Center" status, making it a more vital and recognized part of the University. With stable funding, a new director, Dr. Dale Lund (1988), and two additional faculty, Drs. Michael Caserta (1989) and Scott Wright (1994), the Center began to refocus attention on its own academic programs. In 1993 the Center became only the second university in an 8-state region to offer a Master of Science Degree in gerontology. See this link to the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program's Web site.

In June 2004 its name was changed from the Gerontology Center to the Center on Aging to reflect the desire to become more comprehensive and expand the scope of its service and research activities. A strategic planning process was completed in 2005 resulting in a change in its organizational structure to position the center to have a broad institutional impact and allow it to become more comprehensive and interdisciplinary. As a free standing center it is now optimally situated to serve its interdisciplinary mission and objectives. Dr. Supiano was appointed as its Executive Director upon his move to Utah in October 2005. The Executive Director reports to the Senior Vice Presidents of Health Sciences and Academic Affairs through the CoA's Board of Directors. (link to org chart PDF)

The Center's Mission is to unite aging-related research, education, and clinical programs at the University of Utah with the goal of synergizing the growth and progress of interdisciplinary aging research to help people lead longer and more fulfilling lives, and support the development of multidisciplinary aging clinical and training programs. There are now over 110 faculty members of the Center - there were five in October 2005 - representing 10 of the University's Schools and Colleges. For more information, see the Membership How to Join page.

We invite you to learn more about the Center's two primary annual activities - its annual Research Retreat and annual Pilot Grant program. We are extremely proud of the CoA's pilot grant program which began in 2006. A total of $682K has been invested in this program. From the first 16 one-year pilot grants (range $20-25K) funded between 2006 and 2009, five have already led to new externally funded grants. The total direct cost funding for these five grants - 2 R01s, 2 R21s and 1 K08 - is $2,450,000.