A Billionaire on a Mission

Sidney Kimmel’s commitment to cancer research

Over the last two years, The Story of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies film crew has spent hundreds of hours filming inside the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. This state of the art center in Baltimore, MD is one of the leading cancer research centers in the world, and it is unique in the groundbreaking research, medical treatments and prevention efforts being conducted inside the building’s walls.

Yet while the center may be unique in its capabilities, the name that adorns the building is not. For cancer patients, doctors and researchers, Sidney Kimmel has become a familiar presence and a vitally-important ally in the fight against cancer.

Sidney Kimmel was born in 1928 and raised in West Philadelphia, PA. Growing up, Kimmel’s father worked as a taxi driver, but the family struggled to make ends meet. In an article appearing in The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year, Kimmel recalled his family secretly moving out of apartments in the middle of the night because they couldn’t make the rent.Kimmel

Despite these early challenges, Kimmel’s fortunes would drastically change decades later when he founded the Jones Group apparel company in 1970. By 1991, the Jones Group was listed on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time, and Kimmel’s personal wealth began approaching $1 billion.

Just two years later, Kimmel began putting his newfound fortune to use. In 1993, Kimmel established the Sidney Kimmel Foundation with the goal of funding advancements in health care, education, arts and culture. Inspired in part by the death of a friend’s 25-year-old daughter from cancer, Kimmel began pouring hundreds of millions of dollars – and countless hours – into supporting cancer research and treatment nationwide.

In 1994, Kimmel donated $10 million to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with a focus on preventing, diagnosing, monitoring and curing cancer. Two years later, he served as National Chairman of “The March” in Washington, D. C. – a program that resulted in a federal funding increase of $400 million for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Since then, Kimmel has donated more than $300 million to support cancer research. Among others, his donations have included a $25 million donation to support Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, another $110 million to establish the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and $150 million to establish the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Kimmel’s donation to Johns Hopkins University alone was the single largest donation in the school’s history. In addition to supporting the world-class research being conducted at the hospital, Kimmel’s gift is funding the development of a residence to serve patients and families undergoing prolonged cancer treatments.

“Sidney Kimmel has shown enormous vision and insight into what would make a difference in the field of cancer research, as well as great confidence in our ability to achieve results. We are truly honored by this gift,” said Martin Abeloff, M.D., who was serving as the director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins at the time of Kimmel’s donation.

Test Hopkins BuildingToday, the name Sidney Kimmel adorns Johns Hopkins’ cancer center (pictured), and medical centers in New York City and Philadelphia. But for Kimmel, seeing his name in public has never been his goal.

“It feels kind of funny,” Kimmel, said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer about his charitable giving. “I woke up in the middle of the night saying, ‘What right do I have to put my name on this building? Who the hell am I?’ I had a lot of apprehension, frankly. I guess my wife, my friends told me I was a fool to think that way.”

Despite his reservations about being in the public eye, Kimmel continues to seek out opportunities to advance our collective understanding of the disease. He describes his commitment to cancer research as “strictly a businessman’s common-sense approach to a scourge” and expressed his desire to invest his fortune in the experts and resources that will advance medical science and help to bring about a cure. Says Kimmel, “I hope I can live long enough to give it (his fortune) all away. I want to put money where it helps and works.” As one of the nation’s leading individual donors to cancer research, Sidney Kimmel is already doing just that.

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