Give Marquette

Marquette University Alumni Association

Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Recipients

People for Others Award

ARTS '66, GRAD '68, and
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Giving. It’s a simple, but powerful, word, but no other one can better summarize what drives Joan and Rowan. 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The words belong to Winston Churchill, but they are being lived by Joan and Rowan. The two oncologists have taken different paths, but they share a mission to be men and women for others.

“Giving is what I like most about what I have done with my work and, of course, volunteering,” Joan says. The former director of an oncology–hematology unit and hospital administrator was already busy with volunteer work when she retired. She has raised nine guide dogs, mentored at the Boys & Girls Club, and tutored homeless children in Los Angeles. But she opted for early retirement so she could fulfill a college dream of serving in the Peace Corps and spent two years in Africa working with HIV/AIDS patients.    

Joan says the philosophy courses she took at Marquette and the Jesuit philosophy were foundational and that although the sciences have changed, philosophy has become more appropriate over time.

“I think medicine is a very giving profession, at least for us it was,” she says. However, she thinks there are more ways to continue giving. “I just couldn’t image staying home when things really need to be done. I’m so selfish because I get so much back.” 

Joan is a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, for the Los Angeles County foster care system. She also helps kids learn to read at the Switzer Learning Center, a Los Angeles grade school and high school for disadvantaged children.

“Rowan and I have two very different paths, but he is very excited by his research and motivated by the fact that he has changed treatment for women,” she says. It is his work that found a link between estrogen and breast cancer.

Rowan is chief of medical oncology and hematology at the Harbor–UCLA Medical Center and conducts research at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor–UCLA Medical Center. As a breast oncologist, he focuses on women’s health and is involved in large multicenter clinical studies, including the Women’s Health Initiative, which he says continue to provide new information that has a substantial impact on the medical care of millions of women worldwide.

His Marquette experience gave him the confidence he needed. “This background has allowed me to have a leadership position and be perceived as a thought leader in the breast cancer area,” he says. “I view this contribution to change and better medical practice to be my major life contribution.”

As for future plans for the couple, they can be summed up in a word: Giving.

Joan’s Fun Facts

Hometown: Chicago

Dream dinner group: “Getting together all of the visually impaired people who have my guide dogs — the nine that I raised.”

Marquette faculty or staff member who had an impact on you: “Rev. William Kelly, S.J., the living Jesuit philosophy. He married us.”

Career aspirations in high school: “Medicine.”

Most influential person: “The kids that give back, especially the high school kids that I work with. They work hard, and when they give me a mention at graduation for helping — that drives me.”

Rowan’s Fun Facts

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Favorite quote: “ ‘No day but today’ from the musical Rent, which I have seen about 12 times.”

Dream dinner group:It would have to be in a group, but it would be President Obama.”

Marquette faculty or staff member who had an impact: “Father Kelly is a consistent long-standing model of the Marquette and Jesuit way.” 

Favorite Marquette memories: “Meeting my wife, Joan, followed by the emergence of Marquette basketball as a major national presence during my undergraduate years.”

Career aspirations in grade school: “I grew up in a working-class Polish neighborhood. We had few models of desirable professional lives. Being a physician seemed one approach to a satisfying and worthwhile life.”

Most influential person: “Dr. Charles Rammelkamp was chair of the Department of Medicine at the Cleveland Metropolitan General hospital, where I did my residency. Dr. Rammelkamp was accomplished — he had shown the association between streptococcus and heart disease — but distant. However, he posted a challenge to each of his residents and told us personally: ‘I have been responsible for changing therapy for millions. What are you going to do with your career?’ I think I can actually say I did the same.”