INDIANAPOLIS — The children of Indianapolis philanthropists Sidney and Lois Eskenazi have made a $2 million gift to the Indiana University School of Medicine that will be used to recruit a highly accomplished researcher focused on discovering new ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent cancer.

The gift, to honor their parents, was inspired by Lois Eskenazi’s diagnosis with lung cancer several years ago. She sought treatment from IU oncologist Lawrence Einhorn, M.D., who is world-renowned for developing the cure for testicular cancer and also specializes in lung cancer.

"At the initial diagnosis, the results weren’t good, but we were very lucky and it was operable, so it’s been a success story for us," said David Eskenazi, who made the gift along with his sisters, Sandra Eskenazi and Dori Eskenazi Meyers. "I understand that’s not the case for everybody. But it’s always getting better because of people like Dr. Einhorn, the individuals he works with at the IU School of Medicine, and the research they do. Year after year they’re making cancer more treatable and curable. My sisters and I are honored to be able to do something to recognize that."

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States. Dr. Einhorn, Distinguished Professor and Livestrong Foundation Professor of Oncology, will lead the search for a top-flight researcher focused on the disease. The individual will join a team of about 200 researchers at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. (In a video, David Eskenazi and Dr. Einhorn discuss the gift and its impact.)

The newly recruited faculty member will be known as the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Professor in Hematology-Oncology.

"Sid and Lois Eskenazi have been extraordinarily generous supporters of Indiana University for more than four decades and this wonderful gift from their children is a fitting tribute to them," said Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie. "We are most appreciative that David, Dori and Sandra have chosen to build on their parents’ legacy of support for IU with a gift that will help the School of Medicine attract yet more world-class faculty."

Income from the endowed fund will provide the faculty researcher with the flexibility to launch early stage investigations, purchase necessary equipment, and hire laboratory staff. Thanks to a gift-matching program that is part of For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, the financial support available each year will essentially be doubled.

"It is very nice to think that a scientist can come up with an important discovery, bring it from the bench to the bedside, and improve cure rates or prolong survival of cancer patients. This is a very expensive proposition," said Dr. Einhorn. "Without philanthropy, the great majority of advances made at this university and at all universities would be absolutely impossible."

"This gift will help us find new ways to treat and cure cancer," said Jay L. Hess, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.S.A., dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president for university clinical affairs. "We have an excellent group of cancer researchers at Indiana University, and we want to add to that expertise. We are particularly interested in precision medicine, or learning how to customize care for each individual patient. An endowed chair gives us the opportunity to recruit someone to Indiana who is at the forefront of his or her field."

In 1963, Sidney Eskenazi established Sandor Development Co., which grew into one of the nation’s leading real estate development companies. Shortly after, in 1970, he and his wife – both IU alumni – established a scholarship fund at IU.

They have been staunch supporters of the arts, most recently announcing a $15 million gift in May to the Indiana University Art Museum, which was renamed in their honor. They have also given to the Herron School of Art and Design on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, where Eskenazi Hall bears their name.

In 2011, the Eskenazis contributed $40 million toward a new hospital in Indianapolis to replace the aging Wishard Hospital. The health care system, which was renamed Eskenazi Health, serves some of the most vulnerable residents of Marion County. The IU School of Medicine is a close partner of Eskenazi Health, with faculty members providing care to its patients, and IU medical students, residents, and fellows receiving critical training there.

"Sid and Lois Eskenazi have been extraordinarily generous and philanthropic, even before cancer affected them on a personal level," Dr. Einhorn said. "They have the spirit of philanthropy, which is a learned trait – it is nothing you are born with. One of the exceptional things about Sid and Lois is they have paid that forward to their children. David, Dori, and Sandy have been remarkably generous in their own ways, and this is because of their parents and the upbringing they had."

This gift counts toward the $2.5 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign is taking place on all IU-administered campuses including IU Bloomington, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend, and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude in December 2019 to coincide with IU’s bicentennial year celebration in 2020. To learn more about the campaign, its impact, and how to participate, please visit forall.iu.edu.

Founded in 1936, the Indiana University Foundation maximizes private support for Indiana University by fostering lifelong relationships with key stakeholders and providing advancement leadership and fundraising services for campuses and units across the university. Today, the IU Foundation oversees one of the largest public university endowments in the country, with a market value of approximately $1.9 billion. In fiscal year 2015, IU received $359.3 million in support from the private sector. IU is consistently ranked among the top four of Big Ten universities in annual voluntary support.

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