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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Riggs Library
December 14, 2009

Thank you all for coming today. We’ve gathered together for two purposes. The first is to honor a scientist and healer known to us all, Dr. Richard Schlegel. And the second is to recognize a family also deserving great thanks, the Hunters, who’ve endowed the Chair we inaugurate today.

I’m grateful for the members of the Hunter family who’ve joined us today. I’m especially pleased by the presence of Anne Hunter, the wife of Oscar B. Hunter Jr.; and three of her children: Sidney, William and Anne; who will we will hear from later in this program.

Today, we recognize the difference and the contribution made by Dr. Dick Schegel by investing him as the inaugural holder of the Oscar Benwood Hunter Chair in Pathology at the Georgetown University Medical Center.

We’re celebrating him for his unique service at both bench and bedside; his persistence and incisive insight in the laboratory, and his commitment and heart-felt compassion in the hospital.

A microbiologist and medical doctor, Dick has been with us for almost twenty years. Since 2003, he’s served as Chair of our Department of Pathology. Throughout his career, much of his research has been focused on the role that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) plays in cervical cancer. He and his team’s signature scientific breakthrough was the development of the world’s first anti-cancer vaccine, which works against cervical cancer. (In 2006, he was awarded the Georgetown President’s Medal.)

Cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer in women. It results in half-a million new cases annually, and claims a quarter-million lives, about 80 percent of which are lost in the developing world. Many of those deaths are now preventable, thanks to Dick’s achievement. He’s now working on a second and third generation of the vaccine, so that it will be available to all who need it.

Answering the call of compassion is an essential part of our mission on campus. And thanks to his efforts at both the bench and bedside, Dick Schlegel has made – and is making – a disproportionate difference in the global community. So I’m again pleased to honor his service. And I’m proud to present him as our inaugural Oscar B. Hunter Chair in Pathology. Dick, would you come to the podium and say a few words?

. . . Thank you for your thoughtful presentation Dick. And thanks, once more, for your dedication and leadership.

Each scientific breakthrough depends on many steps, most of which are largely invisible. Dick and his team went through that process in developing their vaccine. They first discovered that the shape of the viral protein was critical in conferring immunity. Then they proved that they could produce the right protein in the right shape. Finally, they demonstrated that the protein they produced did, in fact, confer 100 percent immunity in animals. And after that, the vaccine still had to be developed and licensed for commercial use.

If any step had not been taken, the process would have stalled, and perhaps even stopped. We would have no vaccine. Cervical cancer would still haunt hundreds of thousands of women.

What’s true for science is also true for philanthropy. Most giving goes largely unseen. Yet without consistent support — continued steps — the breakthroughs stop coming: Those that need it lack a cure, a hope.

That’s why we’re so proud to recognize the Hunters. Their family has a storied history on the Hilltop and in the community. Dr. Oscar Benwood Hunter Sr. was a pioneer in pathology, and a leader in D.C.’s medical community. His son, the late Dr. Oscar Benwood Hunter Jr. (M’40; H’84; President’s Medal ’91) founded the Department of Pathology at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine and served as the first chairman of the department. In 1991, he completed funding of the Oscar Benwood Hunter Chair, first established by his mother.

Dr Hunter Jr.’s wife Anne, who is with us today, further endowed the fund in honor of her husband. They’ve been most faithful. They’ve been most generous. And Georgetown is most grateful.

Dr. Schlegel will be the most direct beneficiary of the generosity of the Hunter family. The members of this staff will also profit. But the greatest beneficiaries will almost certainly be those we know the least.

They might not know about Dick Schlegel. They may never hear the Hunter name. But they will know something else. They will know there’s a vaccine. They will be confident in a cure. They will have a hope; a future.

That’s the real story of Dick Schlegel’s work. That’s the true meaning of the Hunter family’s generosity. And that’s our great mission at Georgetown: Using our gifts in the generous and selfless service of others.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Mrs. Anne Hunter Ganley. She’s the daughter of Oscar B. Hunter Jr. and she will offer remarks on behalf of the Hunter family.

Would you please come to the podium?
 

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