In 2016, Edward M. Dowd awarded the National Multiple Sclerosis Society a $3 million multi-year gift. Dowd’s donation was the largest the Society had received from an individual up to that point. The gift established the Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program, which provides case management support to people living with the most complex challenges of MS. His program has improved the lives of hundreds of people living with MS.
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 and Commerce Savings and Loan in Sacramento, and he 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 MS, a diagnosis he considered “one of the best things that ever happened” to him as it helped broaden his life’s focus. He had to trust the operations of his business more to others, which gave him the opportunity to hone his love of art and a passion for philanthropy.
Following those interests, Dowd donated to the construction of a new Art and Art History building at his alma mater, which included an art glass sculpture by renowned artist Chihuly. He also funded facilities for MS medical providers. 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 had hoped that the sculpture would lure outstanding physicians to the practice. But he soon learned that the sculpture also brightened patients’ outlooks. This secondary benefit gave Dowd an even greater appreciation for the impact that art — and philanthropy — can have on personal wellbeing.
The program he created with the Society, the Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program, arose from his firsthand experience of how difficult it can be to navigate services and communities, access care, and even accomplish simple activities of daily life with MS. He recognized that not everyone has the resources and support to achieve their best life — so he set out to change that. His gift accelerated the expansion of personalized case management and support for those who need specialized services, regardless of where they live.
Edward M. Dowd died on Feb. 27, 2022, at the age of 76. His advocate program continues to fulfill his goal of improving the lives of people with MS.