Spotlight on a Stein Supporter
By Maja Gawronska
Our friend and donor Ben Cagle, age ninety-one, very rarely misses any of the Stein public lectures. We recently sat down with him to ask why he supports the Stein Institute.
“You are an important part of my successful aging strategy,” he said. “Disabilities or inherited traits may prevent us from making the most of our later years, but even so, I believe that if everyone follows the suggestions coming from your studies, we may all stay in better health longer into our old age and even postpone some diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.” Ben also emphasized that we are an aging population and that current research on cognitive and emotional aging should continue to expand.
Reflecting on the most important aspects of staying healthy in older age, Ben highlighted enhancing positive attitudes about aging and life in general. “Psychosocial components of successful aging, such as optimism, resilience, and coping with life’s ups and downs, are extremely important,” he said. “In this sense, I find research at the Stein Institute important and unique. It focuses on what goes right in the aging process. In addition, findings are successfully delivered to a broad community by lectures, television, and Internet access, for example, where they can really make a difference. I am happy to be a part of that.”
Ben was born and raised in Oklahoma. “I had an idyllic childhood,” he recalled. “Early years of farm work ingrained in me a strong work ethic.” He put himself through college and earned a bachelor’s of science in aeronautical engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He served in the Army Air Corps in New York and in Dayton, Ohio, during World War II. After the war he moved to Pasadena, California, and completed his master’s degree in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology. Following graduation, he married his wonderful wife, who was from Dayton, Ohio.
Ben enjoyed a fifteen-year career at Caltech, followed by a twenty-five-year career as a scientific officer in the Office of Naval Research. He led several innovative projects for the navy, including ones that contributed to the Cold War effort, and worked at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He traveled frequently, did research on the ice covered Arctic Ocean, and served for a year as visiting professor of oceanography at the United States Naval Academy. Ben retired to take care of his wife during her last years with Alzheimer's disease.
Exemplifying successful aging himself, Ben lives independently and finds joy in staying active. In fact, his calendar would be considered full for a person who was much younger. In addition to being engaged in Stein Institute activities, he is a member of the Mira Mesa Town Council, a church volunteer, a scout troop sponsor, and a longtime participant in the Shiley-Marcus Alzheimer's Disease Research Center's community of volunteers. Ben also sings in a large chorus in La Jolla, practicing twice a week and taking voice lessons.
“The important thing in life is what you do for the world, not what you get from it,” Ben said.
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