In Memory of President George H.W. Bush

MD Anderson extends deepest sympathy to the family of former President George H.W. Bush. The institution mourns the loss of an extraordinary man who was not only an internationally respected bipartisan leader and humanitarian but also a devoted friend of the institution. He was a dedicated ambassador of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) and an inspiration in our mission to end cancer. As we mark the end of an era, we celebrate a life of public service, personal sacrifice and immeasurable impact.

“Our hearts are heavy as we remember President Bush and express our gratitude for his effective leadership, significant philanthropic support and unwavering dedication,” says Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “With a renewed commitment to Making Cancer History, we honor his generosity, compassion and vision for a world without this terrible disease.”

President and Mrs. Bush became engaged in the fight against cancer through a deeply personal tragedy, the death of their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, to leukemia. Their devotion to helping stop and even prevent the pain of cancer would be a lifelong priority.

President Bush first served on the Board of Visitors from 1977 to 1980, when he was elected vice president of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. He served as president from 1989 to 1993. Upon his return to Houston from Washington, D.C., he rejoined the board in 1993 along with former first lady Barbara Bush. They achieved Life Member status in recognition of their exemplary service over the decades. President Bush generously shared his time and expertise in leadership roles on the board’s executive committee, holding the positions of vice chair (1997-1999), chair-elect (1999-2001), chair (2001-2003) and immediate past chair (2003-2005).

The George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center is an extension of their dedication to the institution and our mission. Monies raised for the
$50 million endowment came from their shared 75th and 74th birthday celebration in 1999,
MD Anderson’s 60th anniversary in 2001 and the 41@80 event honoring President Bush in 2004.

In a 2004 interview leading up to the 41@80 celebrations, President Bush spoke to the national media of his young daughter’s death and his commitment to advancing MD Anderson’s mission areas of research, patient care, education and prevention. Reflecting on the advances made in the treatment of leukemia, Bush remarked that his daughter would surely have lived “a full life” had she been diagnosed five decades later:

“Why? Because of the miracles of research going on in the cancer community, not just in Houston, but epitomized by the excellence of research at MD Anderson. I loved working for a brief time as chairman of the board of that hospital, because I met the doctors and the volunteers and the nurses, and people who give of their lives every single day to beat cancer. It is so inspiring to be there.”

Since 2000, Bush Endowment grants have enabled more than 20 researchers and clinicians to pursue groundbreaking programs in Behavioral Science, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Molecular Carcinogenesis, Pulmonary Medicine, Immunology, Diagnostic Imaging, Melanoma, Leukemia, Molecular Pathology, Genetics and Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

“I was honored to receive a Bush Fellowship in 2004,” said Patrick Hwu, M.D., division head of Cancer Medicine. “MD Anderson was doing trailblazing work then in areas that no one else was pursuing, such as immunotherapy research. The Bush Endowment was established in perpetuity to help us better understand cancer at the molecular and genetic levels. It gives us the means to advance research that is changing the standards of cancer care and creating new hope for cancer patients around the world.”

Between 1998 and 2008, President and Mrs. Bush hosted nine events for MD Anderson, welcoming guests at their home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Over the decades, they also lent their names and influence to A Conversation With a Living Legend events across the country as well as the institution’s 70th and 75th anniversary galas. Their combined efforts helped MD Anderson raise almost $90 million toward the mission areas of research, patient care, prevention and education. The Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic at MD Anderson was named in recognition of their generosity.