Tim Reynolds and Robert Heary met in December 2000 under less-than-optimal circumstances for forging a friendship. Reynolds, then 35 and a floor trader on the American Stock Exchange, had been taken to University Hospital in Newark after an automobile accident that crushed his spine. Heary, a neurosurgeon at the hospital and professor of neurosurgery at New Jersey Medical School, operated on Reynolds and again four years later after Reynolds suffered complications from the accident. Although Reynolds lost the use of his legs, he credits Heary with saving his life—twice. 

Over time, the two men did, indeed, become friends. When Heary mentioned his dream of directing a center to develop treatments for spinal injury, Reynolds offered $1 million to found it. The Tim Reynolds Family Spine Research Center at the medical school opened in 2007, devoting much of its work to finding an immune system-based treatment for chronic spinal cord injury. Reynolds’s support, says Heary, “allowed us to outfit the lab with the absolute best equipment available.”     

Subsequent gifts from Reynolds—totaling $9.7 million—have helped Heary launch research projects that he hopes will eventually translate into clinical trials and treatments. With Reynolds’s most recent gift of more than $500,000, Heary will explore electric stimulation as a potential means of repairing the spine. Reynolds lauds the surgeon’s willingness “to try new things and do whatever it takes to find a cure.” That’s a drive, clearly, that the two men share.