There was big news afoot on Nov. 4 at the Northern California Cancer Center’s 35 Years: The Legacy Anniversary awards dinner.
NCCC CEO Sally Glaser announced that in early 2010 the center will change its name to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.
Which caused a few pauses at the podium as speakers mentally scrambled to ascertain the correct initials to employ as they honored the research of Dr. Alice Whittemore and the fund-raising efforts of Hilary Newsom Callan and her husband, Geoff Callan.
But call it watch you like, this renowned center has long been a leader in cancer research and prevention since its founding in 1974.
The dinner was held within the very chic and art-filled confines of Bonham’s & Butterfields where event chairwoman Laura King Pfaff also serves as Chairman of this vaunted auction house.
And while there was no auction, keynote speaker Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz delivered as fiery and impassioned plea for cancer research and awareness as any auctioneer. Especially when she described her own odyssey as a breast cancer survivor.
17 years ago, on a Friday, Bartz began her tenure as CEO of Autodesk. On Saturday, she had a mammogram and dropped her daughter off at a birthday party. On Sunday, her doctor called and informed her that she had breast cancer.
On Monday, Bartz attended her first board meeting as CEO and announced that she needed to take six weeks off.
“The first question I was asked was, ‘Which breast’?” said Bartz. “That was the world 17 years ago. And it pissed me off.”
She also offered some savvy words of wisdom for family and friends who know someone with cancer.
“Don’t ask them how they are doing,” advised Bartz. “They’re scared. Yet as cancer patients, they end up spending a lot of their energy making other people feel better.”
During her own ordeal, Bartz said she finally discovered the meaning of Hallmark and how much it meant to receive hand-written notes of support.
“Don’t send those God-awful e-cards on the computer,” said Bartz, with a tease. “But if you have to send one, just make sure you send it from Yahoo!”
The NCCC is allied with Stanford University, UCSF and the California division of the American Cancer Society; and works with other organizations such as Komen for the Cure and the Peter Michael Foundation.
Alice Whittemore, a Ph.D with the Stanford University School of Medicine, received the Saul A. Rosenberg Research Award for her mathematical and biological approaches to understanding the development of cancer and its risk factors.
And a new award, the Doris Fisher Community Award, was created for the fundraising efforts of Hilary and Geoff Callan. Hilary and Doris Fisher both serve as NCCC Board members and Fisher’s late father, former CA State Assemblyman B.J. Feigenbaum, was one of the center’s co-founders.
Hilary and Geoff have raised $1.8 million dollars for the NCCC’s LINK (learning, information, networking, knowledge) program through their PlumpJack/LINK Golf Tournament. (Nota bene, scratchers: the 11th annual tourney is sked for May 3.)
This dynamic duo founded their golf fundraiser in honor of their mothers: the late Tessa Newsom who died of breast cancer in 2002 and Barbara Callan, a 23-year breast cancer survivor.
Accepting their award, Hilary paid tribute to Doris Fisher, who recently lost her husband, GAP founder Don Fisher, to cancer.
“Doris is an inspiration to me. She and her husband have contributed to so much to to San Francisco, so much to our country,” enthused Newsom Callan. “We are but one percent of what they’ve accomplished. But Geoff and I are so honored to receive this.”
She also paid tribute to her father, Judge William Newsom who raised his daughter and son, Mayor Gavin Newsom, to believe that giving back to your community is not a choice but rather a mandate.
“We are but a tiny piece in a big, big wheel,” said Hilary, accepting their award. “Cancer is not just your grandparent’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. Know your body, take care of your life. This is our reality.”