Event honors alumnus/philanthropist for going 'above par' for Penn State Hershey

On Nov. 4, leaders from Penn State, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine, along with more than 125 guests, celebrated the longstanding philanthropic partnership of Warren Gittlen and the Jake Gittlen Memorial Golf Tournament. The Gittlen family and the tournament — which Warren started in 1970 to honor the memory of his father, Jake, and support cancer research at Penn State Hershey — have collectively given more than $23 million to further scientific discovery through the Jake Gittlen Laboratories for Cancer Research.

The lobby of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute was recently named in honor of the tournament’s generosity. On Tuesday, the Gittlen family greeted guests in the Jake Gittlen Memorial Golf Tournament Lobby before joining supporters for a special program and reception, held in the Tree House Café at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

The evening’s program highlighted the impact of the nearly 45-year Gittlen partnership. It all began with proceeds from the first tournament — $2,500 to benefit the research of Dr. John Kreider, a young scientist at Penn State Hershey. Dr. Craig Hillemeier, CEO, vice president for health affairs, and dean at Penn State Hershey, shared how this support helped propel Kreider’s studies on the human papillomavirus and provided the foundation for many groundbreaking discoveries since the early 1970s. Today, the Jake Gittlen Laboratories for Cancer Research support seven leading scientists whose work benefits people throughout Pennsylvania, across the country and around the world.

Penn State President Eric Barron also thanked Warren Gittlen on behalf of the University. “As a distinguished alumnus, you have been a great ambassador and champion of one of Penn State’s most important missions,” Barron remarked.

When Gittlen took the stage, he asked people to raise their hand if they had a family member who is living with or has died from cancer. With a majority of hands raised, he continued, “This is why we’re all here tonight.” Gittlen recognized the pioneering work of the late Kreider and the studies that current researchers Dr. Keith Cheng and Dr. Ed Gunther have had published in journals including Science and Nature. He concluded by thanking Penn State’s leadership, the Gittlen researchers, his family and all those who have supported the tournament over the years. To the latter, he said, “You gave me the support we needed to accomplish all of this.” Following his remarks, Gittlen gave special recognition to Giant Foods, which has been the tournament’s primary sponsor for more than 30 years.

Dr. Neil Christensen, director of the Jake Gittlen Laboratories for Cancer Research, and Dr. Raymond Hohl, director of Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, also echoed their gratitude for the strong support the Gittlens and the tournament have given to Penn State Hershey. Christensen acknowledged the exponential impact this philanthropy has had. “What’s truly extraordinary is that our scientists have been able to leverage the Gittlens’ support to secure an additional $60 million in extramural funding, $40 million of which has come from the National Institutes of Health (NIH),” Christensen said.

Since 1970, the Jake Gittlen Memorial Golf Tournament has brought together the best U.S. amateur golfers and hundreds of community advocates to move cancer studies forward and give hope to countless people and families facing difficult diagnoses. This support has helped Penn State Hershey climb the ranks of the nation’s leading research institutions.

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Last Updated November 06, 2014