This year, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Foundation will announce the 25th recipient of the Distinguished Philanthropist Award. Since 1989, the ACS has acknowledged individuals who have distinguished themselves through their exemplary investment in the mission of the College and in philanthropy. Each recipient has contributed for different reasons, but each serves as a model donor—supporting not only the contributor’s personal passion, but also acting in alignment with the ACS values of promoting optimal patient care.
In 2010, the ACS Foundation Board of Directors assumed the responsibility of identifying and selecting nominees with the oversight of its Management Committee. (Prior to that time, the College’s Development Committee had collaborated with the ACS Honors Committee to recommend and select recipients.)
The criteria for nomination are as follows:
- A record of service to the College and the Foundation
- A leadership commitment to the practice of philanthropy
- A personal history of philanthropy to the College
- Service to the larger not-for-profit community
Notable award recipients
All past Distinguished Philanthropist Award recipients from 1989 through 2014 are listed in the sidebar. The following individuals are highlighted for their unique contributions to the ACS Foundation’s ongoing growth and development.
Armand Hammer, MD
The first Distinguished Philanthropist Award was presented to Armand Hammer, MD, the internationally known entrepreneur who chaired the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Houston, TX, for more than 30 years. Dr. Hammer’s success in business allowed him to pursue his lifelong interest in art and to build a collection that became a major museum in Los Angeles, CA, after his death in 1990.
Dr. Hammer graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, NY, in 1921, but while waiting the six months before beginning his internship, he took a life-changing trip to the former Soviet Union. His original plan was to help combat the typhus epidemic, but instead he found the major health issue to be starvation. Dr. Hammer acted on this discovery by introducing the idea of trading American grain for furs and other goods from the Soviet Union. A career in business ensued, along with a commitment to help strengthen Soviet-American relations.
Although some of his business, political, and international interests and dealings provoked controversy, Dr. Hammer’s extraordinary philanthropy financed research for a cancer cure. For many years, he donated more than 90 percent of his income to charitable causes. The ACS was one of those beneficiaries, and contributions from the Armand Hammer Foundation supported a traveling surgical scholarship in his honor.
Dr. and Mrs. Jacobson
In 1993, the Honors Committee of the College selected Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, to receive the prestigious Distinguished Philanthropist Award. In addition to their many philanthropic contributions to educational and arts institutions, Dr. Jacobson and his wife, Joan, are among the top donors to the ACS Foundation and, therefore, members of the Fellows Leadership Society’s Pinnacle Circle, with cumulative donations of greater than $1 million.
Dr. and Mrs. Jacobson’s best-known contributions have led to the establishment of two annual ACS awards—the Jacobson Innovation Award and the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson II Promising Investigator Award. In their 20th and 10th years, respectively, each award honors surgical researchers. The Innovation Award honors living surgeons who have originated new surgical technology or techniques, and the Promising Investigator Award recognizes outstanding surgeons who are engaging in research, advancing the art and science of surgery, and demonstrating early promise of significant contribution to the practice of surgery and the safety of surgical patients.
The awards rightfully bear the Jacobson name not only because the couple provided their funding, but because they aptly describe Dr. Jacobson’s legacy, as well. Widely renowned as the “father of microsurgery,” Dr. Jacobson said in a May 2005 interview with the Bulletin that his greatest contribution to surgery was introducing the microscope to the general surgery operating room.*
The Clowes and Islami families
In the Distinguished Philanthropist Award’s history, two families have been selected for their backing of the ACS’ educational mission to support the scholarly aspirations of young surgeons, while memorializing a familial legacy: the Clowes (1991) and the Islami (1994) families.
The George H. A. Clowes, Jr., MD, FACS, Memorial Research Career Development Award (Clowes Award), established with a gift of more than $1 million, was first awarded in 1992 and supports five-year research fellowships for promising surgical investigators. This generous gift came from The Clowes Fund via the endorsement of Alexander W. Clowes, MD, FACS, to honor the distinguished contributions of his father and his lifelong interest in the needs of young surgeons. Many of the awardees have gone on to careers in academic surgical research, and several recipients are now surgical chairs and are widely respected within the research community. Included among the Clowes Award recipients is Timothy Billiar, MD, FACS, chair, department of surgery, George Vance Foster Endowed Professor, distinguished professor of surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA, who remarked, “Winning [the Clowes Award] was a great honor, which is all the more meaningful because it is a link to such an excellent surgical investigator.”
In 1990, the Islami family made a contribution to the College in support of international guest scholarships through the initial generosity of Abdol Islami, MD, FACS, and Mrs. Joan Islami. Passionate advocates for providing educational opportunities to medical students from outside the U.S., Dr. and Mrs. Islami’s contribution was supplemented by their children and colleagues. Proceeds from the Islami Family Foundation originally financed an annual international guest scholarship; in recent years, funding was increased to include a second award. The Abdol H. Islami and Joan Islami International Guest Scholar Award was the first named award within the College’s international guest scholarship program, and its recipients have enjoyed many education and networking opportunities through attendance at the annual Clinical Congress and visits to U.S. medical centers with an academic emphasis.
Dr. and Mrs. Lincke
Several of the Distinguished Philanthropist Award recipients have been honorably named for their service and generosity to the College through a legacy gift; these recipients include Dr. and Mrs. Eric T. Lincke in 1997. By establishing a philanthropic contribution to the ACS through their estate gift planning, they became members of the ACS Foundation’s Mayne Heritage Society. Upon receiving the award, Dr. Lincke said, “The gift comes from the heart, and two-thirds of our estate is earmarked for philanthropy, which will benefit several institutions. The College is an organization I believe in. I’ve been a member for 25 years and continue to support it. I wish to see its valuable goals perpetuated in the 21st century.”†
Drs. Thomas and Nona Russell
The 2011 Distinguished Philanthropist recipients, Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, and Nona C. Russell, MD, were named for their distinctive service and generosity. Drs. Russell made their first donation in 1990, and subsequently provided more than 100 separate gifts to support the College’s programs. Their years of service to the College, health care, and their community are exemplary and inspired hundreds of Fellows and friends to give to the Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, Faculty Research Fellowship and other non-revenue programs of the College.
The tradition continues
All of the ACS Distinguished Philanthropist awardees demonstrate generosity of spirit and a commitment to service. The task of selecting one finalist from the ranks of ACS donors each year can be challenging. A decision was made in 2015 to also recognize an organization with a record of giving and service that aligns with the criteria of the Distinguished Philanthropist Award recognizing individual donors. The announcement of both awards will occur later this year, and the Fellows Leadership Society of the ACS Foundation will honor the awardees at the 2015 Clinical Congress, October 4–8 in Chicago, IL.
In the last 10 years alone, these donors and thousands of other philanthropic Fellows and friends have made possible more than $26 million in contributions for ACS initiatives such as scholarships and fellowships, awards to promote surgical and outcomes research, the Archives, and lifelong learning. Without philanthropic support, access to these valued assets by Fellows and residents would be uncertain.
The ACS Foundation salutes donors and volunteers who contribute to the advancement of the College’s goals to expand and enhance benefits for Fellows and optimal care for surgical patients throughout the world. We honor and recognize all who have supported these efforts through their philanthropy and service.
*Schneidman D. Surgical innovation: “Renaissance man” endows award for surgical investigators. Bull Am Coll Surg. 2005;90(5):10-14. Available at: www.facs.org/~/media/files/publications/bulletin/2005/2005%20may%20bulletin.ashx. Accessed May 13, 2015.
†American College of Surgeons. Dr. And Mrs. Lincke to receive philanthropy award. Clinical Congress News. Sunday/Monday. 1997;48(1):3.