Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., FCRH ’77, will receive the Brien McMahon Memorial Award for Distinguished Public Service in recognition of his many contributions to the fight against cancer.
DePinho is an internationally recognized researcher who served as a scientific director at Dana-Farber Cancer Center; as a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at Harvard; and as president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where today he is a professor in the cancer biology department.
He is also the son of a Portuguese immigrant who, while living across the street from the Rose Hill campus, swore that one day he would send his son to Fordham. “It was an emotional day for us when I graduated from medical school,” given his parents’ minimal formal education, DePinho said in a 2003 profile in FORDHAM magazine.
DePinho graduated from Fordham as salutatorian and earned his medical degree in microbiology and immunology with distinction from Albert Einstein.
His father, Alvaro DePinho, came to America as a ship’s stowaway and had only a fourth-grade education, but through drive and hard work became owner of a real estate and construction company and raised a family in the Bronx.
His father’s death from colon cancer had a “profound impact” on DePinho’s career, fueling his desire to not only study cancer but also make sure the resulting knowledge was converted into cures, he said in a video produced by MD Anderson.
“My father, who was my hero, taught me that you should try to give back and help,” he said.
Under DePinho’s leadership, MD Anderson launched its Moon Shots Program in 2012 to accelerate the conversion of scientific research into lifesaving treatments.
“History has taught us that if we put our minds and will to a task, the human spirit will prevail,” he said in a video announcement of the initiative. “We must act now, act decisively. Today’s patients and future generations are counting on us.”
The Brien McMahon Memorial Award was established by Fordham’s Washington, D.C., alumni chapter in 1962 in honor of the late U.S. senator, a 1924 Fordham alumnus, and his work to cultivate peaceful uses for atomic energy. Other recipients include former news anchor Katie Couric, Mother Teresa, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor, and Walter Cronkite.