More than $2.1 million was raised for McGill University at the fourth Goodman Cancer Research Gala in tribute to the event’s founder, Rosalind Goodman, who lost her battle with the disease two years ago.
The evening, held recently at Complexe Desjardins’ La Grande Place, drew more than 800 guests who enjoyed the tropical rainforest theme.
The success of the evening is due to the dedication of a large committee of volunteers, all friends and admirers of “Roz,” who eight years ago with husband Morris Goodman made what the university described as a transformative donation.
The money created the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre within McGill’s Life Sciences Complex, where basic research focuses on developing better treatments and more effective diagnostic tools. The centre works in collaboration with the McGill University Health Centre and Jewish General Hospital.
“Roz was an exceptional woman who was relentless in the pursuit of her dream of a cancer-free world,” said Penny Echenberg, committee co-chair with Sandy Martz.
Martz added: “Roz was inspirational, my mentor…She was never satisfied with the status quo; there was always more to do.”
The couple was hands-on supporters of the centre and its staff, which today numbers close to 350, including 28 world-class principal investigators. They created the black-tie gala, held every two years, to ensure ongoing funding. Since 2010, the galas have raised over $8.5 million.
This was the first gala since Goodman’s passing, and it took on a bittersweet aura.
The gala was MCed by Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Acquisition Company and chair of Cirque du Soleil, a friend since childhood of David Goodman, one of the Goodmans’ four children and CEO of Pharmascience Inc., co-founded by his father.
“Roz was a remarkable, tireless promoter of cancer research and advocate for the Goodman centre…a great woman who has inspired us,” said McGill principal Suzanne Fortier. “Her impact was great, and her family continues her work.”
A highlight of the evening was a video in which dozens of people spoke from the heart about Goodman. She was extolled for her warmth, wisdom, vision and leadership qualities that rallied people to the cause.
The Goodman centre was “the light of her life,” and she made volunteerism into a profession, it was said.
Many “Roz-isms” were recalled that reflected her understanding of what really counts. Some examples:
“It’s more important to leave your values to your family, than your valuables.”
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s what you do with it.”
“I’m not impressed with what you spend; I’m impressed with what you give.”
Centre director Morag Park said her team is focused on the question of why some cancers respond to therapy and others do not. Basic research is required to answer that, she said.
The time lapse between “bench and bedside,” that is, how long it takes for lab discoveries to benefit patients, is shorter than in the past, she said.
“In the six years since the first gala, we have made remarkable progress in pancreatic, breast, ovarian and lung cancer,” in understanding their resistance to treatment and how they spread in each individual.
“The discovery of personalized medicine has been revolutionary,” she said.
At the gala, three inaugural awards were presented to centre researchers. Ian Watson, a new recruit from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, received the Future is Bright Award for his melanoma genomics research; Nahum Sonenberg, the Leadership Impact Award for his longstanding research in cancer research; and Nicole Beauchemin, the Limelight Award for her colon cancer research and dedication to the centre’s public outreach programs.
“The Goodman family is deeply appreciative of the community’s support for this gala and the ongoing work of the centre,” said Morris Goodman, who was married to Roz for 52 years. “But the community’s responsibility does not end with the close of the gala. Our hope is that this serves as a catalyst for more and more people to get involved and support the research needed for breakthroughs in the fight against cancer.”