“This will benefit anyone who walks through the doors, and we hope it might one day help cure diabetes.”

Cynthia Singleton might think of herself as a human pin cushion.Singleton-web

Ever since being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 5, the Ottumwa, Iowa, native has been injecting insulin into her body four or five times a day to stay alive. Now at 76 years old and more than 100,000 shots later, she’s one of the longest surviving females in the U.S. living with this chronic condition.

“I’m extremely fortunate,” she said. “Still to this day, when I go in for a physical, everything is right down the middle—except for the blood sugar. I have no side effects from diabetes—no dialysis or lost limbs. My only complication is diabetic neuropathy in my hands and feet.”

When she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1943—amidst World War II—Cynthia Singleton’s life expectancy was just 45 years, according to the Defeat Diabetes Foundation. It was a fatal disease before the advent of insulin in 1922, and at that time, there were still a lot of unknowns. “Prior to my diagnosis, I had gotten extremely thin,” Cynthia Singleton said, who has one daughter, Dawn Olson, a 1986 graduate of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “My mom took me to the pediatrician in Des Moines—where I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes—and I still remember my mom learning how to give shots by shooting an orange. I guess that’s like shooting into skin.”

An active and realistic attitude has helped Cynthia Singleton through the ups and downs of Type 1 Diabetes, including all of the blood sugar checks and insulin injections. The support of her husband, Keith Singleton—a 1959 graduate of what is now known as the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie College of Business—also helps. Cynthia Singleton travels extensively across Iowa through her husband’s job with Airgas, and those trips include two visits a year to Joseph Dillon, M.D., an endocrinologist with University of Iowa Health Care.

“Dr. Dillon understands that with Type 1 Diabetes there are no vacations or guarantees,” she said. “He’s been extremely helpful with what I’ve needed from a care standpoint and from day-to-day needs.”

Her most recent visit to University of Iowa Health Care involved a tour of the new UI Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, one of the nation’s most foremost diabetes research institutions. “The new research center was really impressive,” she said. “Keith and I were able to meet a lot of the staff, including Dr. Dale Abel, the director of the center.”

The University of Iowa’s commitment to diabetes research is a major reason why Keith and Cynthia Singleton have left an estate gift to the UI’s Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center. With the creation of the J. Keith and Cynthia Singleton Research Fund, the couple hopes to help nearly 3 million Americans who are currently battling Type 1 Diabetes.

“This gift will benefit a lot of people—whether it’s medical research or for the hospital,” said Keith Singleton. “This will benefit anyone who walks through the doors, and we hope it might one day help cure diabetes.”

Keith and Cynthia’s gift is being provided through a testamentary charitable trust. The trust will provide a home to the Singleton’s daughter before being distributed to the University of the Foundation.