Impact of Giving

These are the stories of the individuals and foundations who help advance Chicago medicine and science through their vision and philanthropy.

Margaret and Larry Benjamin

Donor Stories

Celebrating 25 Years with Gift to Cancer Center

Instead of a lavish party for their 25th anniversary, Margaret and Larry Benjamin chose to donate $250,000 in support of cancer research at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

From the moment you meet long-time University of Chicago supporters Margaret and Larry Benjamin, you’re captivated by their zeal for advancements that are being made in medicine and their awe for the researchers who make such advancements possible.

So when the couple contemplated how to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 2009, it was obvious that it would involve continued support of the University for which they hold in high regard. “We didn’t think about having a big party,” says Margaret. “Over the past 10 years, we have become more and more excited and committed to the University of Chicago, and this just seemed like the right thing to do.”

For them, the right thing was a $250,000 gift to the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) through its Foundation (UCCRF) to support the recruitment of two new faculty members who will broaden the Center’s expertise in both lymphoma and gastrointestinal cancers.

“To me, the University of Chicago is one of the greatest gems of this state,” says Larry. “We love our alma mater, but this is more about the community where we live now and the University is making a difference locally, nationally, and globally.”

Theirs is a visionary approach to philanthropy, says Michelle Le Beau, PhD, Director, UCCCC. “It is gratifying when the strengths of our institution—such as innovation, superior scholarship, and our unique size that nurtures interdisciplinary collaborations—are recognized and supported by our donors.”

Recently, the National Cancer Institute recognized the University of Chicago as a Comprehensive Cancer Center for its daily efforts to provide excellent patient care and the most advanced research results.

The addition of two cancer experts at the University will further enhance investigations to determine how genes and other variables influence an individual’s cancer risk, notes Le Beau.

“Collaborating with many leading scientists both across campus and internationally, these recruits will be contributing to our understanding of these diseases and will permit us to predict cancer risk more accurately for populations at large,” she says.

The incidence rates for non-Hodgkin lymphoma have nearly doubled since the 1970s, a rise that is largely unexplained. Additionally, research has shown that those in Asia are four times more likely than those in the United States to develop lymphoma. “It is our expectation that this new leader will help us gain a greater knowledge of the disease and its biology, as well as genetic and environmental factors that may affect the incidence and course of lymphoma,” she adds.

Personally affected by cancer in their families, the Benjamins hope their philanthropy leads to new discoveries in cancer treatments. “I just hope the University can keep attracting extraordinary people who are among the best and the brightest,” says Larry. “That’s what this is all about, helping fund projects that will continue to attract these extraordinary people.”

The Benjamins arrived in Chicago 15 years ago after completing graduate business degrees at Columbia University years prior. Margaret quickly got involved in the UCCRF serving as president of the Women’s Board and chairing the Grand Auction. “Over the years, Margaret has demonstrated great leadership and commitment to the Women’s Board and recently has assumed more responsibility by serving as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees,” says Le Beau. “She and Larry have been ardent advocates of our program, and share our passion for excellence in scientific accomplishments.”