There is no name more prominent at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC CancerCenter than Hillman. Elsie Hillman, who died at the age of 89 on Tuesday, was a passionate supporter of both, contributing millions of dollars along with her husband Henry and countless hours of her time as founding member and vice chair of the UPCI Council.
“Elsie was not only a huge philanthropist and supporter of cancer care and research, but she was a dear friend,” said Stanley Marks, M.D., chairman of UPMC CancerCenter and director of clinical services and chief medical officer for UPMC CancerCenter and UPCI. “She was our biggest supporter and champion and our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time. She will be terribly missed.”
In 1999, the Henry L. Hillman and the Hillman foundations contributed $10 million for the development and expansion of UPCI. The contribution was used to build the Hillman Cancer Center, UPMC’s flagship cancer facility which brings together nationally known researchers and cancer care under one roof. That and more than $20 million from the Hillman Foundation since 2005 to support an innovative scholars program has enabled the University of Pittsburgh to recruit top research talent from across the world to western Pennsylvania’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
Mrs. Hillman also championed the Shadyside Hospital Foundation, Magee-Women’s Research Institute and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, all vital parts of UPMC’s mission against cancer. The Hillman Foundations also underwrote the construction of the Herberman Conference Center on the Shadyside campus, and endowed the Hillman Professorship of Oncology to support the UPCI Director, currently held by Nancy E. Davidson, M.D.
“Elsie dedicated her energy and resources to so many organizations and areas of need to promote human and social services, health and women’s issues,” said Dr. Davidson, director of UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter. “She cared deeply about equality and her contributions to our cancer programs ensured that world-class care could be found right here. Her focus was always on the patient. ”
Mrs. Hillman and her husband have served as the co-chairs of the Hillman Cancer Gala, held annually to support research at UPCI. This year’s gala is scheduled for Sept. 17.
“We will be sad not to have Elsie with us but are so happy to have known her and had her support,” Dr. Marks said. “Elsie’s legacy lives on in the halls of the cancer center that bears her name and in the work of everyone at UPCI who looks to a future free of the burden of cancer.”