32 Years and Counting
There is a will to win that CRI is taking to cure cancer, and the results achieved speak for themselves.
It was the early 1980s when Jacques Nordeman joined the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Board of Trustees. At that point, there were no immunotherapies for cancer. Now, there are approximately 20, including three active immunotherapies—Provenge (sipuleucel-T) for prostate cancer and Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for melanoma.
More than 30 years later, Mr. Nordeman is still on the board and is receiving the 2014 Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research for his many contributions to CRI. We sat down and talked with him about CRI, his experience with cancer, and what it means to receive the Grace Award.
CRI: How did you first learn about the Cancer Research Institute?
Mr. Nordeman: A CRI board member, Joyce Green, approached me and said, “Would you ever like to consider being on the board of CRI.” I learned about the organization and met some of the people on the board, and it sounded intriguing; that the immune system could be used to help fight cancer. To be part of that mission was exciting to me. I couldn’t believe it when Jill [O'Donnell-Tormey] recently told me that I had been on the board for over 30 years. Time flies!
CRI: What is your experience with cancer?
Mr. Nordeman: Over ten years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Very fortunately for me, having gotten to know Lloyd [Old] well, I had the most amazing, knowledgeable cancer‑related doctor in the world to talk to about who I should see and what I should do. He guided me personally in terms of people to talk to, and I have always been terribly appreciative of his wisdom and willingness to take the time, as busy as he was, to guide me through the process.
CRI: What was it about CRI that excited you?
Mr. Nordeman: First, it was the quality of the people on the board and the organization and CRI's mission. And today especially, CRI is so fortunate to have Jill as our CEO. It’s so unusual to find someone who understands the science and can speak the language, and also has the leadership skills that she has shown. I think what she has done is extraordinary. Second, the privilege of getting to know Lloyd—who was one of the great, great scientists of his time—was such a memorable experience for me. Recently, as I am beginning to work with and know Jedd Wolchok, I feel equally as fortunate. He is an unassuming and accessible scientist who brings exceptional leadership qualities to CRI. And third, I give Jill high marks in attracting Adam Kolom who has created this amazing CRI venture, the Clinical Accelerator.
CRI: Being a CRI trustee, what about the organization are you most proud of?
Mr. Nordeman: As in most organizations, it all comes down to people. The human quality of the board and CRI leaders all bring an entrepreneurial attitude and willingness to set the highest standards in trying to conquer insurmountable challenges. I've learned there is often a huge gap between science and business. I believe CRI continues to bridge that gap with the Clinical Accelerator, which I think is an amazing model and one that was way ahead of its time. There is a will to win that CRI is taking to cure cancer, and the results achieved speak for themselves.
I also was fortunate enough to have had a close relationship with George Parker, a dear friend and CRI trustee, who sadly died of cancer. Through George, I had developed a lasting personal and business relationship with Chuck Feeney and his foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies. Chuck believed in CRI's vision and mission, and his generosity in the many millions of dollars given through The Atlantic Philanthropies really transformed CRI's ability to achieve many of the results we are so proud of today.
CRI: Why should someone choose to donate to CRI?
Mr. Nordeman: Besides the people and the mission, CRI has a model where 85% to 90% of the funds raised go toward the science. CRI has always been extremely, efficient in using their funding wisely.
CRI: What does it mean to you to be receiving the Oliver R. Grace Award?
Mr. Nordeman: I’m very flattered and truly humbled. Oliver Grace was the chairman of CRI when I joined the board. To receive an award in his name is inspiring. Having watched him lead CRI, I remember that he was a great listener. Watching him with his one eye—he wore an eye patch over the other—absorb the issues challenging the organization, and, in his own quiet way, he cut through to the right answer, leading the organization each step of the way toward its ambitious goal of curing cancer. I am thrilled to be given an award in his name.