Ben Horowitz, the visionary chief executive officer behind City of Hope’s growth from a local tuberculosis center to an internationally recognized cancer research and treatment institute, died Oct. 2 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96.
|Ben Horowitz (City of Hope Archives). Scroll down for a slide show of Ben Horowitz photos.|
Horowitz joined the organization in 1945, became its chief executive officer in 1953 and led the institution through its most dramatic period of growth over the next 32 years. During that time, the organization expanded from just a few buildings focused on tuberculosis to a 100-acre “pilot” medical research center known for its compassionate patient care and innovative research.
“Ben Horowitz was instrumental in City of Hope developing into the leading biomedical research, treatment and education institution it is today,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer. “He had the foresight to build a strong foundation for health-care professionals to tackle the treatment of current diseases, and also prepare for the challenges of the future through research and education.”
Horowitz’s belief in and unwavering advocacy for basic research at City of Hope not only transformed the organization, but also revolutionized the way diseases are treated today.
“Ben’s foresight and support were so crucial, he could be listed as a co-author of all papers and scientific findings to come from City of Hope,” remarked Eugene Roberts, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Scientist Emeritus and former City of Hope associate research director.
Some of the scientific breakthroughs that occurred under Horowitz’s tenure include the development of synthetic human insulin by Arthur Riggs, Ph.D., and Keiichi Itakura, Ph.D., which transformed how diabetes is treated, and the development of humanized monoclonal antibodies, which formed the basis for the drugs Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin. These are three of the most widely used drugs for treating cancer successfully today.
These scientific discoveries and others made during his term generated hundreds of millions of dollars in patents for City of Hope and brought new treatments to millions of patients.
“Ben Horowitz didn’t have a science background, but he understood the promise and potential in basic research and how it could contribute to medical advances,” said Riggs, director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute. “He created an environment where scientific research and medical practice could work together to develop new treatments. His advocacy and support of research enabled City of Hope to impact many more lives through research than they could by only providing care.”
|Ben Horowitz shakes the hand of Queen Elizabeth II during the monarch’s visit to City of Hope in 1983. (City of Hope Archives)|
Horowitz grew up in the slums of Brooklyn, earned his Bachelor of Arts at Brooklyn College and a Bachelor of Law degree at St. Lawrence University. As a young New York City attorney during the Depression, he felt called to address the economic and social problems of the underprivileged. As a result, he dedicated nearly half of his legal work to pro bono efforts, fighting for causes such as unemployment insurance, retirement pensions and health and welfare benefits.
“Ben had a lifelong commitment to improving the world around him that never faltered over the years,” said Sheri Biller, chair of City of Hope’s board of directors. “When he was a young lawyer, it was the disenfranchised and underprivileged of our society. As the chief executive of City of Hope, it was everyone who was facing serious diseases like cancer.”
His ideological belief that health is a human right drew him to City of Hope — an institution that at the time, and throughout his tenure, was uniquely committed to providing free care and treatment to all of its patients. This social contract — to provide compassionate and quality care to those in need — was expressed in his Torchbearer’s Creed, which continues to be a central tenet of the institution. It states that “to be our brother’s keeper…means more than the social obligation of rescuing those plunged from the bright sunshine of health into the despairing darkness of disease. It involves a framework of social justice, emphasizing our larger responsibility and man’s humanity to man.”
Innovation and expansion characterized his years at City of Hope. He organized a unique network of volunteer groups throughout the U.S., including 450 auxiliaries and industry groups nationwide. He created the Institute for Advanced Learning, drawing some of the most important scientists from around the globe to join City of Hope, including Nobel prize winner Hermann Muller, Ph.D.
He oversaw the establishment of City of Hope’s bone marrow transplantation program, making City of Hope one of the first six medical centers in the nation to perform this procedure, as well as the creation of Beckman Research Institute, which spearheads breakthrough research into life-threatening diseases. During his time at City of Hope, the National Cancer Institute designated the organization a comprehensive cancer center, making it one of a few such elite institutions nationwide.
After his retirement, he continued to serve on the board of directors and as honorary chair and remained passionate about and committed to City of Hope until the time of his death. He is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Beverly Horowitz, his son Zach Horowitz, daughter Jody Horowitz Marsh, and grandchildren Jennifer and Charlie Horowitz and Zoey Marsh, in addition to daughter in-law Barbara Horowitz and son-in-law Gary Marsh.