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With their children not wanting for toys, Bill and Lori Lopez asked would-be gift-givers to instead donate to cancer research. These collective contributions are now supporting junior faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Very few birthdays passed before Bill RC’94 and Lori Lopez reached their limit on the mounds of gifts heaped upon their children, Vanessa, 6, and Bennett, 3.

By the time Bennett turned 1, the Lopezes had begun asking their friends and family, in lieu of toy trucks or cute outfits, to make contributions for the amount they’d spend on a birthday gift to the Arthur Herrmann Endowed Cancer Research Fund, which Bill and Lori had established in 2004 in memory of Lori’s father, a lifelong Long Island resident who had died of lung cancer a year earlier.

“How many gifts does my kid need?” Lori, a graduate of New York University, asks rhetorically. “It seemed so excessive and completely unnecessary.”

Inspiration for the research fund came through a close friend who for several years had organized a charity golf outing in memory of his father, a victim of pancreatic cancer. Touched by their friend’s annual tribute, the Lopezes, who live in Little Silver, New Jersey, sought a similar way to memorialize Lori’s dad.

Bill, who was especially close with his father-in-law, turned to his alma mater for the answer. A dinner meeting was arranged, ideas were discussed, and the fund was soon established. “Lori’s dad was just a very real guy,” says Bill, a communications major while at Rutgers. “The fund serves as a way to remember her father and what he meant to us.”

The fund supports cancer research conducted within the School of Arts and Sciences’ Division of Life Sciences, offering a stipend to further the promising work of a faculty member in his or her first five years at Rutgers.

To date, over $50,000—augmented by matching donations from the Lopezes—has been raised; the current beneficiary is Ping Xie, an assistant professor who uses mouse models to study human cancer development. Bill and Lori have also established a scholarship fund in both children’s names, and use birthday donations to supplement their personal contributions.

“We want to give back and we want to help open doors for other people,” says Lori. “We hope our story can impact others and encourage them to find their own ways to give.”

Originally published in Rutgers alumni magazine. Photography by Matt Rainey.

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