The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Research center construction begins

Madeline Buckley | Monday, November 24, 2008

University President Father John Jenkins said the construction of Harper Hall, a center for cancer research for the Indiana School of Medicine – South Bend (IUSM-SB), will perpetuate a “legacy of love” when he spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

The cancer research center is made possible by a 10 million dollar gift from Mike Harper, a South Bend native whose wife Josie died of cancer in 1999, Jenkins said. The state of Indiana then matched the 10 million dollars, making Harper Hall a joint effort of IUSM-SB and Notre Dame, he said.

“Cancer touched the Harper family and took Josie, Mike’s wife, but in response to that sadness, Mike and his family responded with generosity and vision,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the research center is at the core of the University’s mission to educate and serve.

“This is an area we really emphasize. [The hall] is a place that not only passes on knowledge, but discovers knowledge through research,” he said. “Science at the service of humanity is what Harper Hall is about.”

The research done at the center will influence the lives of so many people, Jenkins said.

“The work of discovery [at the center] will alleviate suffering and cure people,” he said. “It is such an inspiring gift.”

Jenkins said part of Mike Harper’s vision for the project was making the center a joint venture of public and private efforts. The speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, Pat Bauer, was responsible for matching the 10 million dollar gift from Harper, he said.

Bauer said matching a donation to a private establishment is not a common practice, but he said the center has the potential to do a lot of good in the state.

“When they asked the state to match a gift from a private school, I thought, that’s never been done, but when I saw that amount of money, I thought, we can’t pass this up,” he said.

Bauer said the project was not too difficult because there was already a partnership between IUSM-SB and Notre Dame.

“We were putting [the money] in an area where we already had a partnership,” he said. “This public/private partnership thing is blossoming in many more ways.”

Dr. Stephen Leapman, executive associate dean of education affairs at IUSM-SB, said the research center benefits the students who will have an opportunity to work there.

“Our graduate and medical students benefit because they see their role models conducting research and they want to emulate them,” he said. “There is an important connection between research, education and student involvement.”

Dr. Rudy Navari, assistant dean of IUSM-SB, said that the center will benefit the region as well as the students.

“In addition to the effects on the two major universities, the gift has energized the Northern Indiana community,” Navari said. “I receive phone calls and emails every day from health care professionals in the area who are excited … and very proud we are going to have a center of excellence in cancer research.”

He said cancer research has always been a big priority with the Medical school and the center will allow the school to expand its capabilities.

“We have major resources so we can develop cancer research for the next few years,” Navari said. “This gift will continue to make a difference in many years.”

Mike Harper, the benefactor of the gift, thanked both universities and the state for working with him to make the cancer research center a reality.

He said his wife Josie would be very happy with the center’s potential to help so many people.

“She’s very proud right now,” Harper said.