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Doubleheader at Minute Maid Park

Event celebrates MD Anderson’s 70th anniversary, Anne and John Mendelsohn

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Mary Griffin leads a spectacular finale backed by Susan Graham, from left, Sarah Chang, Larry Gatlin and the Abundant Life Cathedral Choir. Photo by F. Carter Smith

 By Sarah Watson

The Making Cancer History® team had lots to cheer about May 5 as 2,000 MD Anderson fans and employees celebrated the institution’s 70th anniversary and honored Anne and John Mendelsohn, M.D. The event scored a home run for philanthropy, raising $4.3 million to establish the Anne and John Mendelsohn Personalized Cancer Therapy Fund.

“It occurs to me that Making Cancer History®, like baseball, is a team sport,” said Mendelsohn.  “MD Anderson is fortunate to have all of you on our team.  You’ve been clutch hitters for us many times, generously sharing your expertise, energies and financial resources to help further our cutting-edge research and patient care initiatives.”
Two masters of ceremonies ― Scott Pelley, in his first public appearance as the newly named CBS Evening News anchor-managing editor, and Sam Champion, ABC’s Good Morning America weather anchor ― directed a packed program featuring Luci Baines Johnson; UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, M.D.; UT System Board of Regents Chair Gene Powell; and Susan and James A. Baker, III. The Bakers served as honorary chairs with Barbara and George H.W. Bush, who greeted the crowd via video message. Cancer survivors James Wiley, BOV member John Holland and MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital nurse and former pediatric patient Shelby Robin shared their own personal stories of Making Cancer History®.

Teaming up as event chairs were Janet and Ernie Cockrell, Nancy Loeffler and Charline and Red McCombs. The Bakers joined Honorary co-chairs were Lynn and Peter Coneway, Edwin L. Cox, Brenda and John Duncan, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, Barbara and Randall Meyer, Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens and Jeri and Marc Shapiro.

Following dinner, guests enjoyed a Texas cultural tribute with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, mezzo soprano Susan Graham, concert violinist Sarah Chang, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, and, in a Cinco de Mayo salute, soprano Barbara Padilla with The University of Texas Pan-American Mariachi Aztlan and Luz de Luna Ballet Folklόrico. A spectacular finale featured the Houston Children’s Chorus, an adult chorus and vocalist Mary Griffin with the Abundant Life Cathedral Choir singing “Hope Can Move Mountains.”

Indeed, it was an evening of hope, perhaps best expressed by Anne Mendelsohn, whose heartfelt remarks centered on the words of an 11-year-old Children’s Art Project designer: “We love life. We love the MD Anderson.”  

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center