"In the Service of Mankind: The IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center"

IU Simon Cancer Center Dedication
IUPUI Campus Center
Indianapolis, Indiana
August 21, 2008

Introduction: Hitchings and the Service of Mankind

When George Hitchins and two colleagues received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988, he said, “Our greatest reward has been the ability to develop our ideas for the service of mankind.”1 The Nobel Prize had been given to Hitchings specifically for his pioneering work in chemotherapy.

On this memorable day, as we dedicate the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, we are also recognizing the importance of “developing ideas for the service of mankind.” This kind of dedication to the public good requires the freedom for a researcher or a clinician to follow the trajectory of an idea that might eventually-and by painstaking steps-lead to a cure. It is this freedom to search deeply and rigorously that Indiana University fosters in every laboratory, classroom, and lecture hall.

IU School of Medicine and Statewide Partnerships

The IU School of Medicine has been dedicated to the public good in this way for well over a century. Since its establishment in 1903, the School has grown to become the second largest medical school in the nation. It includes nine medical education centers across the state, and it has graduated over sixteen thousand students since the first class of 25 graduated in 1907. And the School’s reach extends much further thanks to its extensive partnerships with hospitals across Indiana.

Today’s celebration is due in large measure to Indiana University’s partnership with Clarian Health, which is widely acknowledged for offering outstanding care. Such care touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients and their families. That level of care would be impossible without thousands of dedicated and highly skilled medical professionals. That level of care also depends on the visionary leadership of Clarian President Dan Evans, whose efforts on behalf of the state of Indiana and its citizens have been quite extraordinary.

Working together with Clarian and other Indiana health care systems, the School of Medicine’s outstanding faculty includes hundreds of volunteer physicians throughout Indiana and boasts some of the most talented doctors and researchers in the country. This concentration of talent has led to breakthroughs in the treatment of testicular cancer, breast cancer, and many other life-threatening diseases. It has also included the vision of people like Dean Craig Brater, Dr. Stephen Williams, and Dr. Pat Loehrer, who have provided such strong leadership throughout this project.

An Historic Foundation of Generosity

These achievements have been built upon a strong and historic foundation. At the time of its establishment, the IU School of Medicine was only the fourth such school in the United States to require two or more years of collegiate work for admission. Its first home in Indianapolis was the former Central College of Physicians and Surgeons Building then located on Senate Avenue. Later it moved to the former Indiana Medical College Building at Senate and Market Streets. As you know, both are a little over a mile from here.

The first medical building on what is now the School of Medicine’s campus was the Robert W. Long Hospital, dedicated in 1914. Mr. and Mrs. Long’s remarkable generosity made that hospital possible. At the time of their gift, the Indianapolis Star noted that this was the “largest single public gift . . . ever made in the state.” The Indianapolis News proclaimed this “one of the most notable events in the history of Indiana.”2

At the dedication of Long Hospital, then Dean of the IU School of Medicine Charles P. Emerson explained the hospital’s most important mission. He said, “Institutions, like [people], do their best work when they approach it from a higher level, and that higher level for the scientific [person] or institution is that of the searcher for truth through research.”3

One family’s generosity made that search for truth possible back in 1914.

And today, another family’s generosity continues this extraordinary legacy.

The Simon Family

On behalf of Indiana University, then, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Simon family.

Like the Longs, like the Lillys, like the Krannerts, the Simons are among the few families in the history of Indiana University who have left an indelible mark on the university with their great vision and generosity.

The Simon family name will forever be interwoven with the great achievements of Indiana University. Their vision and support of our students through the Hillel Center, their support of the arts through IU’s world class School of Music, and their support of multidisciplinary life sciences and other research through the award-winning Simon Hall on the Bloomington campus, have been nothing short of transformative.

And that impact reaches far beyond Indiana University. Governor Mitch Daniels, who regrets that he could not join us here today, sends his heartfelt thanks to Mel and Bren Simon for their dedication and commitment to our entire state. He wrote, “Your work ethic is an inspiration to all of us, and your compassion in so generously lending a helping hand to your fellow Hoosiers is a testament to your enthusiastic community support.”4

Conclusion: Hope, Compassion, and Freedom

We can look around this magnificent facility just across the road and understand, in part, the impact that the Simon gift has had and will continue to have. To fully understand that impact, we have to remember the words that Dan Evans spoke at the groundbreaking of the IU Cancer Center in 2005. He said, “The core focus of Clarian Health Partners is patients and their families. That is the reason this building . . . exists.” 5

Those patients and families are our own loved ones. My wife Laurie and I both lost our first spouses to cancer. My first wife Andrea was treated for cancer at the IU School of Medicine a number of years ago and received exceptional care. We have all been touched in one way or another by this disease.

Today as we dedicate this building, we celebrate the patients and families whose hope rests on the shoulders of our remarkable physicians. We celebrate the staff members who dedicate themselves with compassion and heart to the health and wellbeing of others. And we celebrate the freedom to pursue ideas for the service of mankind.

Source Notes

  1. Hitchings, George. “Banquet Speech.’ Nobel Banquet. Stockholm, Sweden. 10 Dec. 1988. Nobelprize.org. Accessed 14 Aug. 2008. Posted 1988.
  2. 1976 History of Long Hospital. Ruth Lilly Medical Library Special Collection. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  3. Henry, Edna G. “Dedication of the Robert W. Long Hospital.” Indiana University Alumni Quarterly 1 (1914): 394-410. Page 396.
  4. Daniels, Mitchell E. Governor of the State of Indiana. Correspondence. State of Indiana, Office of the Governor. Indianapolis, Indiana. 21 Aug. 2008.
  5. Evans, Daniel. Remarks. IU Cancer Center Groundbreaking Ceremony. 22 Sept. 2005.