Raised by a father who was an Emeritus Professor of Radiation Biology and Cancer Research for the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Will Clifton literally grew up on campus. He later went on to earn his degree from UW–Madison and was happily employed there for decades. However, he opted for an early retirement in 2015, when it became clear that both of his parents had developed Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 55, Will and his wife, Gwen, sold their home and moved into his childhood home to become caregivers for both of his parents.
Will quickly realized the challenges of navigating care for both of his parents simultaneously. As a cancer survivor and professional working in the UW Office for Equity and Diversity tasked with inclusivity in the workplace, the ties between his past experiences and his current reality became clear to him.
“If I’m going to be a part of true change across communities, I need to have a positive impact on the community as a whole, and focus on the ever-present disparities of who has access to care and who’s not having their needs met,” Will said.
Will’s passion for preventing and ultimately curing Alzheimer’s disease has led him to develop collaborations in a number of areas. He is part of creating a dementia-friendly community, has developed a Brain Health and Music Radio program called “Play It Again S.A.M.” (Songs that Activate Memories) on UW–Madison’s student radio station — WSUM, and participates in two research studies for children of those with Alzheimer’s disease. “My chances of developing this disease are very high,” Will said. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to go from being a volunteer who cares to becoming a part of a team, which is incredibly empowering.”
Will is proud to be a member emeritus of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s Board of Visitors. Please join him and his family in advancing a cure through research, health equity and patient care with your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!
Will’s mother, Mayre Lee, passed away in 2019, and his father, Kelly Clifton, passed away in 2020.
“… I will stay involved in this endeavor for others long after they’re gone,” said Will. He participates in Alzheimer’s research and shares why in a video from the National Institute on Aging. Watch