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Remarks by Stewart Greenebaum

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

On the occasion of a Dean’s reception honoring Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum for their gift to establish a Professorship in Radiation Oncology

First, I want to acknowledge the presence of several people here tonight who mean so much to the Greenebaum Cancer Center and to Marlene & I personally: Leonard & Rosyln Stoler, Dr. Suzanne Sysko, Mr. & Mrs. Louis Schwartz.

Sometimes it seems as if our world has embarked on an extraordinary and horrific course, with alarmingly little regard for the value and dignity of human life. Suicide bombers willingly discard their lives while murdering innocent men, women, and children. Beheadings are video taped and broadcast around the world. Genocide and ethnic cleansing takes place in places like Rwanda and Darfur with hardly a ripple of attention. With each day’s newspaper, the list grows and so, I’m afraid, does society’s tolerance for the intolerable.

In stark contrast, in places such as the Greenebaum Cancer Center, each life is treated as a sacred trust. The magnificent people who work there never quit on life, never flinch, or withdraw from the challenges they face every day, even when the odds seem overwhelming. The very nature of life means they don’t always win. But they never fail to fight for every life they encounter. Here, every precious hour is fought for as what it really is -- a gift from G-D. This is an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad.

The invitation to this event says that Marlene and I are being honored. Don’t let your eyes and ears deceive you. We are here, not to be honored, but to honor those who do what we could not hope to do -- care and help people in their darkest hours.

Several years ago, I wrote a letter to the staff of Greenebaum Cancer Center where I told them of three experiences, all within 48 hours, of people coming to me and saying thanks for how wonderfully their loved one was being treated and how compassionate the entire staff was. I wrote that these three experiences were not unique. Often, when I see someone walking across a crowded room, looking directly at me, I know in advance what they are going to say. They are going to say “Thanks.” Thanks for the compassion, the caring, and the atmosphere of hope at the Greenebaum Cancer Center.

What I am telling you tonight is that while such comments make Marlene and me proud to be associated with the Center, we know full well that it is you, not us, who deserve the gratitude. It is you who make miracles of human kindness happen every day at the Greenebaum Cancer Center. We know, because we hear about it so often -- that the generosity of spirit is universal at the Center.

People tell us of their wonderful experiences with the medical and nursing teams, the techs and the therapists, the administrative and clerical staffs, the maintenance crews, the scores of support personnel and volunteers. They tell us that, at a most critical time in their lives, when they most needed the finest care, a kind word, a gentle attitude, you were there for them. YOU made all the difference. So, you can see, this honor is backwards. We honor you, and not the other way around.

Tonight, you have heard from a number of speakers. Mohan Suntha personifies the care, the compassion, and the brilliance of the Cancer Center.

I would like to quote to you from Dr. Bill Regine, who told me he was broken-hearted that he could not be here tonight. Bill said: “Mohan Suntha has demonstrated himself as the lifeblood of this program” and that “I do not like to call him vice chairman, but rather I always refer to him as my partner and co-leader in driving not only Radiation Oncology but, along with Kevin Cullen, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, towards its goal of continued excellence in cancer care benefiting patients near and far. I can think of no better ambassador of our cancer program than Mohan Suntha. It is through his work that the Radiation Oncology Department has become a nationally recognized program. This recognition is not achieved by fancy cancer fighting treatment machines or pretty brick walls, but by the physicians, physicists, health care workers, and researchers who fight the battle every day.”

It is not surprising to Marlene and me that, given Dean Wilson’s track record of having vaulted this medical school to national prominence during his fifteen years as Dean, that he has once again made an outstanding decision. Who else but Mohan Suntha could be the first named Professor in Radiation Oncology at the Greenebaum Cancer Center?

Those of you who work here do things that the rest of us could never do.

I must confess that on more than one occasion, when touring the Center with guests, I found myself turning my head, because there were things that you were dealing with that we did not have the courage to see, and that is okay, I suppose. But never should we turn our backs. That is the commitment that I make to you tonight . . . never to turn my back on what you do here.

Just as a symphony orchestra does not support itself by ticket sales alone, it is endowments that enable this incredible department to reach its potential and help it recruit and retain the very sharpest and committed minds.

In closing, I am not big on quotes, but one I do remember is one from Margaret Mead who said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you.

This page was last updated on: January 25, 2007.