MD Anderson’s 75th anniversary celebration raises nearly $15 million

Vice President Joe Biden, former President George H.W. Bush among gala guests

Cancer survivors, families and friends of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center gathered in the heart of the Texas Medical Center last week to celebrate MD Anderson’s 75th anniversary. The week-long celebration, which paid homage to the institution’s faculty, staff, patients, survivors, volunteers and supporters, raised nearly $15 million to support MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer.

Some 2,000 guests, including dignitaries from around the world, such as Vice President Joe Biden and former President George H.W. Bush, attended a sold-out gala that raised nearly $14 million, and the inaugural Boot Walk to End Cancer™, a 1.2-mile walk to “give cancer the boot,” drew approximately 7,000 cancer survivors, families and friends and raised more than $881,000.  

Other events included a day of appreciation for MD Anderson’s faculty, staff and volunteers, followed by the annual Survivorship Conference, a faculty honors convocation dinner and a dinner honoring MD Anderson employees of 20 years and more. All guests had the opportunity to sign a 30-foot-long Strike Through Cancer Wall with a red marker to honor a loved one and symbolize the effort to “strike out” cancer once and for all. 

“We are so inspired by the hope and positivity shared during this week of remarkable events,” said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “Everyone who celebrated this important milestone with us can take pride in the significant difference our institution makes in the lives of cancer patients every day. This outpouring of support drives and enables us to accomplish our goal of Making Cancer History.”

During the gala, DePinho officially announced the creation of the Beau Biden Chair for Brain Cancer Research.  W.K. Alfred Yung, M.D., who served as Beau Biden’s doctor, presented a commemorative memento to Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Biden, leader of the White House Cancer Moonshot, which aligns with MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program™. Established by MD Anderson in recognition of Biden’s late son, the endowed chair is funded through private philanthropy. The Biden Chair also honors Yung as one of the most renowned figures in brain cancer research and care. The recipient of the Biden Chair will be identified in the coming months.

Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer and actor Gerald McRaney took center stage as gala emcees. In addition to DePinho and Vice President Biden, TNT Sports reporter and cancer survivor Craig Sager; former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III; and UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven offered remarks. Entertainment included country music star Reba McEntire, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, opera star Ana María Martínez, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, The Tenors, the Houston Celebration Chorus and the Houston Children’s Chorus.

National, state and local officials attended to show their support for the fight to end cancer. In attendance were U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, U.S. Rep. Al Green, U.S. Rep. Gene Green, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, Texas State Rep. Carol Alvarado, Texas State Rep. Tom Craddick, Texas State Rep. Borris Miles, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council Members Ellen Cohen and Jack Christie. Also in attendance were numerous members of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors and Advance Team.

“My family and I were honored to join our fellow Houstonians and Americans in celebrating MD Anderson and its 75 years of passionate service to millions of patients and families faced with cancer,” said former President George H.W. Bush. “As a former chair of MD Anderson’s Board of Visitors, I have personally witnessed the institution’s courage and commitment to its mission to end cancer, and I was gratified to see so many supporters unified at this magnificent event to make that noble goal a reality.”

The gala chairs included Ann and Clarence Cazalot Jr., Estela and David Cockrell, Lynn and Pete Coneway, Susie and Don Evans, Janet and Jim Gallogly, Nancy and Rich Kinder, Laurie and Pierre Lapeyre Jr., Kit and Charlie Moncrief, Regina Rogers, Peggy and Carl Sewell Jr., Marsha and John Shields and Mindy and Glenn Stearns. Honorary chairs included Susan and Jim Baker; Barbara and George H.W. Bush; Lynda Chin, M.D., and Ronald DePinho, M.D.; Andi and Mickey LeMaistre, M.D.; Anne and John Mendelsohn, M.D.; and Pat and Bob Schieffer. Honorary co-chairs were Charles Butt, Janet and Ernie Cockrell, Edwin Cox, Brenda and John Duncan Sr., Lyda Hill, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, Annette and Mel Klein, Nancy Loeffler, Norma and Harry Longwell, Peggy and Lowry Mays, Charline and Red McCombs, Miriam and Jim Mulva, Toni and Boone Pickens and Jeri and Marc Shapiro.

75 Years of Making Cancer History®
Throughout its 75-year history, MD Anderson has been recognized around the globe for its contributions to the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. From early advances in diagnostic radiology and the development of mammography technology to the basic science exploration that led to immunotherapy and our ability to harness the immune system to attack cancer, MD Anderson’s multi-disciplinary approach to cancer care has led to significant progress for more than seven decades. Watch this commemorative anniversary video, 75 years in 75 seconds.

The Texas legislature created MD Anderson in 1941 as a part of The University of Texas System. The MD Anderson Foundation matched state funds to build a cancer hospital and bought the former seven-acre estate of Capt. James A. Baker, grandfather of James A. Baker, III, as temporary quarters for the fledgling cancer hospital and research institute, later providing a permanent building site in the Texas Medical Center. As the largest freestanding cancer center in the world, MD Anderson occupies 16 million square feet and is one of the world’s most respected centers devoted exclusively to cancer patient care, research, education and prevention.  

The institution is first in the nation in total funding from the National Cancer Institute. MD Anderson’s cancer clinical trials program is the largest in the world, with more than 9,400 patients participating in almost 1,200 clinical trials. Last year, MD Anderson invested nearly $800 million in research aimed at rapidly translating scientific knowledge to innovative cancer therapies and cancer prevention strategies. More than 6,600 trainees took part in MD Anderson educational programs, including more than 1,500 clinical residents and fellows who received specialized training in the investigation and treatment of cancer. More than 300 students attended the institution’s School of Health Professions, which offers bachelor’s degrees in eight allied health disciplines and a master of science in diagnostic genetics.