Edward M. Dowd grew up in the small town of Salinas, near Monterey, California, and served in the Air Force from 1965 to 1969. He proudly graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1972 and embarked on a very successful career in investment real estate and finance, beginning at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. He was a founder of San Jose National Bank, Commerce Savings and Loan and served on Santa Clara University’s Board of Fellows. Dowd founded his company, EMD Properties, in 1981; it now owns and operates 1,000 rental units in the South Bay area of San Francisco. He was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as vice chairman of the California State Athletic Commission, for which he represented California at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
In 1993 Dowd was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a diagnosis he considers “one of the best things that ever happened” to him as it helped broaden his life’s focus. The necessity to trust more of his business to others offered the opportunity for Dowd to develop a love of art and a passion for philanthropy.
Dowd focuses his philanthropic giving on the causes that are closest to his heart and experiences. Dowd donated funds for the construction of a new Art and Art History building at his alma mater, which included an art glass sculpture by the well-known artist Chihuly. He has also funded facilities for medical providers that help him and others manage their MS. His endowment of the Main Entry Pavilion at Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View campus—where Dowd received medical care, also included a Chihuly glass sculpture. Dowd hoped that the sculpture would lure outstanding physicians to the practice to enhance patient care, however, patients noted that the sculpture helped brighten their outlook when arriving for medical procedures. This secondary benefit gave Dowd an even greater appreciation for the impact that art—and philanthropy—can have on personal wellbeing.
Dowd has experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate services and communities, access care, and even accomplish simple activities of daily life with MS. Now age 70, Dowd leverages his resources to navigate the challenges and live well with MS. But he recognizes that not everyone has the personalized resources and support necessary to achieve their best life. His significant gift to the National MS Society will establish the Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program, and expand the Society’s services to people living with MS. The gift will accelerate expansion of personalized case management and support for those needing specialized services – regardless of where they live. Dowd’s gift is not only transformative in expanding the network of trained case managers in a focused, coordinated and sustainable way, but will change the lives of all those connected to this program.