Esteban Bullrich ’96 MBA has made a profound impression on the people he has met around the world, both during his time at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and throughout his career as an education advocate and respected political leader in Argentina, his home country.
When describing Bullrich, friends note his dedication to public service, passionate drive for social justice and generosity of time and spirit to support those in need. So when Bullrich was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2021, a band of former Kellogg classmates sprang into action, led by Peter Schmitz ’96 MBA and his wife, Bronwyn Poole ’96 MBA.
“He’s just a really great guy, and everybody says that about their friends, but I always knew he would dedicate his life to improving the lives of others,” says Schmitz, who, along with Poole, has maintained a close friendship with Bullrich over the past 29 years.
ALS is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease with an average survival rate of three years. There are an estimated 350,000 cases of ALS worldwide, and the symptoms and progression of the disease can vary greatly by person. The degeneration of neurons leads to muscle weakness and impaired speech, swallowing and breathing. The disease eventually results in paralysis and death.
“This disease does not define me,” Bullrich announced in April 2021, when he was serving in the Argentine Senate. “I live a happy and wonderful life, and this challenge confronts me with the need to do more things and to do them better.”
After his diagnosis, Bullrich began to search for ALS medical experts and turned to the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, which for more than 40 years has been accelerating leading-edge research while providing life-enhancing treatment to people living with ALS.
Bullrich learned early on that, given the disease’s rapid progression, he was unlikely to bear witness to a cure — but that didn’t deter him from using his platform to steer resources toward ALS research so that others might one day experience brighter outcomes. In 2021 he established the Esteban Bullrich Foundation to fund ALS research and help families and ALS patients access medical support, advanced research and diagnostic tools.
“We are grateful for and inspired by those fundraising on behalf of Esteban Bullrich,” says Robert Kalb, director of the Les Turner ALS Center and the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Professor of Neurology in Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “This devastating disease does not discriminate, and with every new case, we are acutely aware of the urgency to find a cure. Support for our research ensures our scientists and clinicians can continue to work tirelessly to find a way to end the suffering of ALS patients and their loved ones.”