Impact of Giving

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

Mildred and Marv Conney

Donor Stories

Philanthropy Vital for Scientist’s Research

Over the years, numerous donors have contributed to the success of Janet Rowley, LAB ’42, PHB ’45, SB ’46, MD ’48. Recently, the 85-year-old received several awards that highlight her contributions to science, which she says wouldn’t be possible without philanthropists.

For Mildred and Marv Conney, it was no surprise that their friend, pioneering scientist Janet Rowley, MD, recently received national recognition and accolades for her work which, years ago, revolutionized cancer care.

Rowley was the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers, which was considered among the most important medical breakthrough of the past century. For this discovery, Rowley earned the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In addition, she traveled to Hawaii last October to accept the prestigious Genetics Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

“Her work and her passion for scientific discovery in research is what has inspired us over the years,” says Marv Conney. “It has been a privilege for my wife and me to offer financial support to her research whenever we can.”

Rallying for Rowley
The Conneys are just one example of the many donors who have aided Rowley throughout her nearly 40-year career at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Now 85, she continues to reap funds that will impact her continued research on leukemia.

“Philanthropy has certainly played a major role in my career,” says Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor. “There are so many examples that I’m not able to remember them all. I’m extremely grateful for Marv and Mildred’s generous support. They supported me with resources a number of times when funding was not adequate.”

Janet Rowley

In the early ’70s, Rowley received her first research contribution of $20,000 that she split with another professor. The funding came from the Spastic Paralysis Foundation of the Illinois Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis, which has consistently supported her research for more than 30 years.

In addition to the Kiwanis, the Cancer Research Foundation has supported Rowley’s projects on treatment-related leukemia over the past 40 years. Rowley initially met with Maurice Goldblatt, founder of the foundation, and described her research on chromosomal changes in leukemia. Based on their discussion, the foundation awarded Rowley a modest grant, which led to a larger National Institutes of Health grant that paved the way to her groundbreaking discovery in cancer development.

“While Dr. Rowley was making the scientific status quo look foolish for their insistence that genetics could have nothing to do with cancer, she was making my grandfather and the foundation look really, really smart for believing in her and her work,” says Alexandra Nikitas, Executive Director of the foundation.

No strangers to philanthropy, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Chicago also offered scholarships to many of Rowley’s students and has funded her translational research projects.

Scholarship Established in Rowley’s Honor
As a testament to Rowley’s influence on his career, Glenn Hodges, MD ’67, and his wife Carolyn, recently made a financial commitment to establish the first Janet D. Rowley, M.D. Medical Student Scholarship Fund. The fund will provide scholarships to deserving Pritzker School of Medicine students in honor of Rowley’s research career.

Hodges, who worked in Rowley’s lab when he was a medical student at the University of Chicago, experienced a prolific career in internal medicine up until his retirement in 1999. Following medical school, he completed his residency and a National Institutes of Health Special Research Fellowship in internal medicine at The Ohio State University Hospitals. He continued there as a clinical instructor for two years before accepting a position as an assistant professor at the University of Kansas, where he remained for 30 years.

“Dr. Rowley’s influence on my career was profound to the say the least,” Hodges says. “That she is now being recognized for work that really revolutionized how cancer is understood is long overdue.”

Rowley, who enrolled in the University of Chicago at the age of 15 with a scholarship, was delighted when she learned one of her former medical students founded a scholarship on her behalf.

“Glenn and his wife’s generous gesture came as a great surprise because he was one of the early members of the laboratory and played an important role in helping us get started on a number of projects,” she says.

For more information about making a bequest, contact Jill Doherty at jdoherty@mcdmail.uchicago.edu.

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