The benefactor of the Thrasher Research Fund, E. W. "Al" Thrasher, was born June 30, 1920 in Chelan, Washington. He started working at age 10 to help support his family and was cutting cordwood for sale by age 14. From this early age he combined hard work with innovative improvements. He started his own mill and created several inventions focused on reducing waste in the lumber industry, establishing a research facility devoted entirely to improved lumber recovery. Altogether, his inventions enabled lumber producers to reduce waste by over 30%, vitalizing the entire lumber industry. Later, he became Corporate Vice President of Masonite Corporation, was responsible for its lumber division and served on the Board of Directors.
In 1972, Al merged his inventive spirit with his love for children, donating 2,034 acres of second-growth redwood timber property for pediatric medical research. In 1977, this timber tract was sold for nearly $14 million, leading to the establishment of the Thrasher Research Fund.
In the early years, the small funding organization granted many awards in biomedical research. As more money became available for grants, the Fund moved to focus on clinical research and expanded its reach to the international community. Currently, the Fund supports clinical, hypothesis-driven research in both international and domestic locations. To date, the Fund has awarded over $100 million in research grants, resulting in diagnostic methods, treatments, and governmental policies that have improved the lives of children on a global scale.
In recognition of his significant contributions to the health of children worldwide, the University of Utah awarded Mr. Thrasher an honorary doctorate degree in May 2003.
Mr. Thrasher took an active role as a member of the Fund's Executive Committee until his death on July 3, 2005.