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After surviving cancer herself, Madlyn K. Abramson and her husband donated $100 million to establish the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Emeritus Board of Trustees member and Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center namesake Madlyn Abramson died on April 15 from stroke complications, the Almanac reported. Abramson was 84 years old.

Abramson graduated from Penn with bachelor's and master's degrees in education in 1957 and in 1960, respectively, Penn Medicine reported. After surviving cancer herself, Abramson and her husband donated $100 million to establish the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at Penn Medicine. At the time, this was the largest single donation ever to a cancer research center.

Abramson was appointed to the University Board of Trustees in 1997, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. She also served on the Board of Overseers of the Graduate School of Education, where she led an effort to provide scholarship support for master's and Ph.D. students. Abramson also sat on the Trustees' Council of Penn Women, the Almanac reported. 

In 2010, the Abramsons donated an additional $25.5 million to the cancer center, which had been renamed the Abramson Cancer Center in 2002. Since then, scientists at the center have developed the first personalized cell therapy for cancer, approved by the FDA in 2017.

“The exciting progress we’ve made in pursuit of curing cancer unites us every day to do more for our patients here in the Abramson Cancer Center and across the world, and we have Madlyn, together with her husband Leonard, to thank for the vision that set us on this path,” Director of the Abramson Cancer Center, Robert Vonderheide, told Penn Medicine.

Abramson led the center's annual fundraising event Philly Fights Cancer, which has raised more than $39 million for cancer research to date, Penn Medicine reported.

Abramson was also involved in philanthropy outside Penn. According to the Almanac, her and her husband’s donations include a $10 million gift to Temple University’s dental school and a donation to establish the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life, an assisted living facility. Additionally, in 1995, Abramson and her husband established the Pediatric Research Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Almanac reported.

This year, Abramson and her husband donated an additional $1 million to the Abramson Cancer Center to support COVID-19 research, according to the Inquirer.