Celebrating 120 Years of Generosity and Progress

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - 10:04am

In August of 1900, William Henry Gratwick Jr. wrote a letter to Dr. Roswell Park. Gratwick’s late father, who made a fortune in the lumber industry, had been one of Dr. Park’s patients.

“My dear Doctor Park,” the letter began. “My mother wishes me to say that she would consider it a privilege to assume the expenses of building a laboratory to be devoted to the investigation of cancer…the expenses of such an undertaking to be about $25,000.”

Martha Weare Gratwick offered the gift to honor her husband, who had died of colon cancer the previous year. Soon other wealthy and prominent members of the community came forward to provide the land for the new building — brothers Bronson and Dexter Rumsey, Harry Hamlin, and Oscar Wadsworth of Geneseo, NY.

Their generosity came at just the right time. Founded two years earlier, the Pathological Institute of the University of Buffalo had already outgrown its first home — three small rooms in the U.B. Medical School.

More than 2,500 invited guests showed up for a tour when the Gratwick Laboratory opened its doors on February 23, 1902, at the corner of Elm and High streets. The Buffalo Sunday Morning News reported that the three-story building housed clinics, a library, a lecture hall, an operating room, chemical and pathological laboratories, and even a laboratory for microscopic photography — making it one of the most modern research facilities anywhere in the world. “Through the magnificent generosity of Mrs. Gratwick, everything recommended…was supplied,” the Morning News stated.

For the first time, Dr. Park’s vision of a comprehensive cancer center could come to life in a single location that brought together research, patient care and education — a place where experts from different fields could work closely together to unravel the mysteries of cancer.

Today the support of the Gratwick Family is remembered in the name of the Gratwick Basic Science Building at Roswell Park and in the Gratwick Society, whose members contribute $1,000 annually to fund research, patient-care services, and cancer awareness and prevention programs.

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Building Together

That first major contribution was just the beginning. Over the past 120 years, people of all income levels and many walks of life have made gifts ranging from one dollar to millions of dollars to advance the work of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Today the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation manages all donations made in support of Roswell Park’s research and patient-care programs. Here are just a few ways donors have made a difference for our patients, past and future:

  • In 1914, Cornelia Wilcox, daughter of prominent Buffalo attorney Ansley Wilcox, made a gift of $6,000 to Roswell Park to purchase 50 grams of radium, a radioactive and costly element used in a relatively new and promising cancer treatment.
  • When Roswell Park’s first hospital opened in 1914, private donations totaling $21,000 purchased the land on which it was built.
  • In 1998 Roswell Park became one of only 47 centers in North America to offer patients noninvasive brain radiosurgery with a Leksell Gamma Knife®, purchased with donations.
  • With a $2.5 million gift from grocer Waldemar Kaminski, Roswell Park created the beautiful Kaminski Park next to the hospital and an endowed chair that supports pediatric cancer research and funds the Young Adult Cancer Program.
  • Carly Collard Cottone had already lost both her parents to cancer when she was diagnosed with brain cancer at age eight, in 1999. Yet her first concern was always for other pediatric cancer patients, with whom she shared the toys and gifts she had been given. In 2002, an endowment was established in her name to support the unique needs of children fighting cancer. Thanks to the continued generosity of community members and partners, the Courage of Carly Fund provides children, teens and young adults with year-round family programs and psychosocial support, and provides critical funds for pediatric cancer research.
  • Gifts totaling $32.7 million covered the lion’s share of $50.5 million in construction costs for the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center, which opened in May 2016.
  • In 2017, nearly $7 million in philanthropic support enabled Roswell Park to open the doors of the Katherine, Anne and Donna Gioia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center.
  • Money raised through The Ride For Roswell, Goin’ Bald for Bucks, and many other fundraisers supports the development of promising new treatments, including cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies, and funds services to enhance the patient experience, from the Artists-in-Residence program to spiritual and emotional support.

As we celebrate the 120th anniversary of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, we recognize that what we have accomplished would have been impossible without the financial support of our community. We are grateful for your generosity, which enables us to keep pace with rapid changes in technology and the needs of our growing patient population. Your kindness carries on the legacy of hope that began with Dr. Roswell Park.