by Lisa Lyons
Thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Marcelle S. Schwartz, the planned CITI (Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology) research center has received a $1.5 million gift. In recognition, the center’s entryway will be named the Marcelle S. Schwartz Entry Plaza.
Schwartz, a breast cancer survivor, began supporting City of Hope as a direct-mail donor. While not sizable, her donations were consistent and formed the basis of a relationship with the institution that steadily grew over the years.
Senior Gift Planning Officer Sandee Zschomler first spoke with Schwartz and her sister, Ruth Cordish, in 2000. During those conversations, the sisters mentioned their desire to include City of Hope in their estate plans. The two expressed an interest in cancer research and Beckman Research Institute, so Zschomler encouraged them to come to campus for a tour. Due to a number of medical and personal obstacles, however, Schwartz was unable to visit the campus before her death in 2004.
When Cordish called Zschomler to tell her of Schwartz’s passing and that she had a $100,000 gift for City of Hope, Zschomler mentioned the CITI program and the planned research center. Cordish was intrigued enough to ask for more information, so a personalized proposal was presented to her. Cordish then called to say she might have a lead on a significantly larger donation for CITI.
The lead turned out to be Schwartz’s estate, which had set aside funds in trust for a number of charitable foundations. However, Cordish was so impressed with the CITI proposal and the program’s stated aim of revolutionizing the standard approach to cancer research and treatment that she decided to give the entire $1.5 million to City of Hope.
When it came to selecting an appropriate recognition for Schwartz, Zschomler and Cordish both felt that the entry plaza to the planned $60 million research building would be an ideal spot for a visual testament to Schwartz’s philanthropic legacy.
"What is so amazing to me about this bequest is the rapid progression from a modest direct mail donor, to a $100,000 gift, then to a donation of $1.5 million," said Zschomler. "It really showed me that even the smallest gift, if properly nurtured, can grow into a major gift when the time is right."