HBS Supports Student With ALS

Members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) community have rallied in recent months around a classmate who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare nervous-system disorder.

Avichai Kremer, MBA ’06, began treatments last fall for ALS—commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, students and faculty at HBS have set out both to increase awareness of the disease and to raise money to fund research for it. There is no known cure for ALS, which is often fatal.

Members of Kremer’s section—a group of about 90 students in his class at HBS—and their section chair, Senior Associate Dean Janice H. Hammond, have organized several events to achieve their goals. They arranged a Valentine’s Day fund-raiser in February and hosted an online auction, which ended last week.

Nathan M. Boaz, president of Kremer’s section, decided early on to join Kremer in his efforts to fight ALS.

“When this whole situation came to light in the fall, Avi and I got together to think of ways to turn this unfortunate situation into an opportunity,” Boaz said.

So far, Kremer and his supporters have raised $22,000, Boaz added, and they hope to raise $100,000 for ALS research by the end of their campaign.

Every year, each section holds a charity auction and generally donates the proceeds to a small number of individual charities. Kremer’s section will give 100 percent of the proceeds from its auction to the ALS research fund. In addition, several other sections will contribute a portion of their own proceeds to the fund.

The money will be given to the Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research, a branch of Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to investigating genetic defects that cause neuromuscular paralysis.

ALS, which occurs most often in men above the age of 40, is a degenerative neurological disorder that destroys nerves controlling muscular movements.

In an interview yesterday, Kremer recalled his reaction when he was first diagnosed with ALS.

“I couldn’t think about anything. For me, it was like a death sentence,” he said. “For the next days, I didn’t go to class. I couldn’t face the world. I just stayed in bed.”

Kremer noted that his ALS diagnosis made him uneasy about his future.

“I have so many hopes and dreams of what I want to do with my life,” he said. “When people tell you that you’ve got three years or so to live and that you’ll be in a wheelchair in one year, it’s very hard.”

But Kremer added that his colleagues’ efforts have helped him to look at the situation with a degree of optimism.

“I was very cynical at first, but I now realize that if you reach out to people, you can get the best out of them,” he said.

Kremer also said that there is also a long-term goal behind the fund-raising efforts.

“If we are talking about people who are going to be future leaders in the business world, and they have these notions in the back of their minds,” Kremer said, “it will be much more beneficial for the research than the money we are raising this year.”

“Some people thought it was just about the money, but it’s much more than that,” he added.

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at dschuker@fas.harvard.edu.