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Giving research a sporting chance

Jeff Dobbs had been enthralled by golf since his childhood days‚ when he would hit balls with his dad in the backyard of their New Hope‚ Minnesota‚ home. An avid sportsman‚ the robust and enterprising father of four also loved helicopter skiing‚ fishing‚ coaching his children’s soccer teams‚ and driving race cars.

Jeff Dobbs and family

When he was diagnosed at age 35 with type 1 diabetes‚ he battled its effects but still tried to keep the disease from interfering with the activities he loved. “He would tell people he was with on the trip [about his diabetes]‚ in case he needed help‚” says his wife‚ Kay‚ “but it was something he didn’t share with everyone.”

And Jeff Dobbs was captivated by the idea of advancing diabetes research. “He was really passionate about trying to find a cure‚” says his 19-year-old daughter‚ Jennifer‚ “not for himself‚ but for us‚ his kids‚ and for people in the future.”

In the mid-1990s‚ as friends batted around the idea of creating an annual diabetes Fundraising golf tournament‚ Dobbs stepped in with characteristic vigor. Through ProStaff‚ the Minneapolis based temporary staffing company he had started from scratch‚ he helped underwrite the expenses of the University of Minnesota’s first Golf Classic “fore” Diabetes Research in 1996. His quiet gesture ensured that all money raised could go directly to studies focused on eliminating the disease.

The annual tournament he started has become a mainstay and a critical source of funding for the University’s Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation. In its 13 years‚ the tournament has raised more than $4 million for studies at the Diabetes Institute.

At this year’s event‚ which took place on June 16‚ the early-bird round of the Golf Classic “fore” Diabetes Research had a special meaning for the golfers. Dubbed “Jeff’s Derby‚” the round was reserved for more than 120 family members and friends of Jeff Dobbs‚ who died in October 2007 at age 51.

The institute that Dobbs supported with such enthusiasm recently honored his commitment to raising money for diabetes research by renaming the endowed chair held by pioneering physician-scientist David E. R. Sutherland, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Transplant Division in the University’s Department of Surgery and director of the Diabetes Institute. Historically called the Golf Classic “fore” Diabetes Research Chair‚ it’s now called the Jeffrey Dobbs and David E. R. Sutherland‚ M.D.‚ Ph.D.‚ Diabetes Research Chair.

Kay Dobbs is certain that her husband would have been astounded by the personal recognition. “He was just very excited by the possibilities he saw happening at the institute and was impressed with the dedication of the doctors‚” she says. “He was motivated to do everything he could to bring about a cure.”

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