On November 12th the world lost a very special woman and one of the leading philanthropists of our time. The cause of her death, at the age of 75, were complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer. She is survived by her beloved family: husband Leonard A. Lauder, her two sons William and Gary and five grandchildren. Though I could not attend the funeral as I was at a Women Moving Millions event in Washington, my thoughts and prayers were with her family. This week, while in New York City, I did have the opportunity to meet with Myra Biblowit, the magnificent President of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I left the BCRF board last year when I moved to Park City, but what an honor and a privilege it was to serve on it alongside Myra and Mrs. Lauder.
Mrs. Lauder’s life is a remarkable American success story. Born in Vienna, Austria, her parents fled from Europe with her during the Nazi occupation, eventually settling in New York City. Asleep when the ship bringing them to the United States arrived in New York Harbor, she awoke to see the Statue of Liberty. Mrs. Lauder would remember, and be inspired by, that symbol of hope for the rest of her life.
Mrs. Lauder was a philanthropic leader in New York City. She served on the Board of Overseers at
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and on the boards of the Central Park Conservancy and the Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Foundation. Many other charities also benefited from Mrs. Lauder’s thoughtful guidance and renowned generosity, including nonprofits devoted to health and human services, education and inner-city schools, the environment, women’s causes, and the arts.
The public perhaps best knew Mrs. Lauder for her work in bringing global awareness to women’s health, a passion that stemmed from a personal experience with early stage breast cancer. In 1992, she co-created the Pink Ribbon, now recognized as the worldwide symbol of breast health, and launched the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign (www.bcacampaign.com). Each year, the BCA Campaign raises funds through its brands, employees, and retail partners around the world to help support breast cancer research. Mrs. Lauder founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in 1993 to provide crucial funds to breast cancer medical and scientific researchers around the world. BCRF (www.bcrfcure.org) has raised more than $350 million and supports 186 researchers globally. She believed wholeheartedly the the prevention and cure for breast cancer resides in funding innovative research.
I would be hard pressed to name a woman who more fully used her resources – her money, her heart, her corporate affiliation, her business savvy, her network, her time – to make a difference in the lives of others. She boldly stepped out in front to be a leader in this movement to find a cure for all kinds of cancers. After sharing many stories about Mrs. Lauder over coffee at the Palace Diner on 57th street with Myra we ended thinking that “so many have great ideas, but only a small percent act on them, and an even smaller percentage result in sustainable action.” Without Mrs. Lauder there would be no pink ribbon, their would be no BCRF, and the movement to end breast cancer would not be one of the most well funded movements of our time.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Evelyn Lauder Founder’s Fund, 60 E. 56 St., 8th floor, New York, NY 10022, or www.bcrfcure.org . Please consider a donation. Blessings……………