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Donor Eleanor Mosca: Explorer, Caregiver, Educator—and TSRI Supporter

By Elliot Wolf

La Jolla resident Eleanor Mosca is active in a variety of pursuits, and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is thankful that medical research is one of them. A loyal TSRI supporter who frequents the institute’s events on recent scientific discoveries, she has been giving to TSRI since 1985 and is a member of the Scripps Legacy Society by virtue of her decision to support science at TSRI in her estate plan.

Her background includes positions as a registered nurse in Boston and Greensboro, North Carolina; a university educator in both nursing and sociology; and a counselor. Eleanor and her husband, Carlo, moved to La Jolla in 1972 from Boston when he accepted the position of director of education at Sea World. Internationally recognized for his work, he had previously been director of education and graphics at the New England Aquarium and the director of exhibit halls at Boston’s Museum of Science.

Carlo passed away tragically at the age of 45 in 1984. He was the eighth patient diagnosed with AIDS in the United States and was the third patient to receive alpha interferon, part of a protocol at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Carlo tested disease-free after taking alpha interferon for two years and was regaining strength for six months, but then his progress unexpectedly stopped and he died two months later.

It is now known that treating AIDS with interferon resulted in no benefits to patients and probably accelerated the disease process in some.

Carlo’s illness and death spurred Eleanor’s involvement at TSRI.

She realizes that alpha interferon has proven effective in many other conditions and is a precise example of why it’s important to give to TSRI and medical research.

A major portion of Eleanor’s estate is designated to TSRI, with proceeds also going to Scripps Health and the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Carlo is buried.

“Medical research is extremely important to me,” said Eleanor. “I’ve always been interested in research of all sorts and started attending lectures at Scripps when Carlo passed away that enhanced my medical knowledge.

“I contribute to research at TSRI because I feel it’s the building block for improved health and saving lives,” she continued. “Medical research is often serendipitous—the most significant research usually comes about when people are looking for something else entirely. Many diseases in our lifetime would not have been cured without multi-disciplinary science. What I like about TSRI is that it furthers science by integrating various disciplines like biology, chemistry, physics and molecular studies.”

Eleanor volunteered at the San Diego Humane Society for 12 years. The proud owner of three cats, she is the author of The Cat’s Tail (Eco Quest, 2005), in honor of her cat, Brick, who passed away in 2010 (after benefiting from life-prolonging experimental treatments, thanks to a referral from a TSRI scientist). It’s an amusing paperback on the travails of a stray cat trying to survive before being adopted. Told from the cat’s perspective, it’s dedicated to the humans who provide food, shelter, care and companionship for our feline friends. Proceeds from the book go to various cat-care organizations around the country.

Her home is a virtual museum—it’s filled with various collections, including an array of old-fashioned wooden duck decoys, hand carved shorebirds, tapestries, her own nature photographs, and Inuit art and artifacts.

Eleanor lectures about her numerous Arctic explorations (having covered most of the Arctic through her 17 expeditions, some via dog sled). But before her next trip, she is sure to be seen at the next TSRI event.


A version of this article originally appeared in Scripps Discovers. For more information, see

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TSRI supporter Eleanor Mosca, shown here with Professor Dennis Burton, frequently attends the institute’s events on recent scientific discoveries. (Photo by Melissa Jacobs.)