Swells turn out in force to support
CIRM fundraising event
Marcia Goldman, Charlotte Shultz, former Secretary of State George
and San Francisco Symphony President John Goldman
attended a fundraising dinner event at City Hall in support of
By Aldrich M. Tan
May 23, 2006
Deborah Strobin lost her husband Edward in 2000 to cancer, a
specific type of cancer that could someday have a cure through
stem cell research.
On Monday evening, Strobin and a small group of volunteers organized
"Reach for Tomorrow, Research Today" the first gala
event to benefit stem cell research in San Francisco.
"This is my small tribute to Eddie," Strobin said.
"I want this event to elevate awareness of stem cell research
and its potential value to people like my husband, who had very
little chance of conquering his form of cancer."
Deborah Strobin receives a proclomation from Mayor Gavin Newsom
The overall event consisted of cocktails and a black-tie dinner
with a speech from Mayor Gavin Newsom under the City Hall rotunda,
followed by a visit with Academy Award-winning singer Julie Andrews
and a solo concert by multi-award winning composer Marvin Hamlisch
at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
The funds raised Monday evening will go directly to the California
Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the only state-based stem
cell research foundation in the United States, Strobin said. Tickets
for dinner ranged from $1500 to $10,000 per seat and tickets for
the performance ranged from $35 to $100. Between 900 and 1,000
people attended both events.
"I hope the donors tonight have the satisfaction of knowing
that they are supporting a noble cause," Strobin said.
Funds raised from the gala will help the California Institute
for Regenerative Medicine hire a scientific staff to help look
at the next round of grant applications, chairman Bob Klein said.
The agency distributed its first set of grants in April and is
planning to distribute another $35 million of bond anticipation
"The outpouring of civic support will help the agency fund
the staff that we need to distribute the next set of grants,"
CIRM Chairman Bob Klein and Donald Fisher
Agency President Zach Hall said money from the event will also
help support a scientific conference to assess medial risks for
egg donors and will help send 16 scientists to England for a stem
cell renewal conference.
"This event has been a morale booster for our agency,"
Doormen in red uniforms greeted each guest at the entrance of
City Hall as violinists played in the background. Each table out
on the rotunda had a towering bouquet of white orchids.
Mayor Gavin Newsom echoed Strobin's hopes as the guests sat down
to dinner. Newsom also officially declared Monday Deborah Strobin
"I know so many of you are here for your commitment to stem
cell research," Newsom said. "You have come here to
make an investment for our future."
The gala is also a celebration of San Francisco as the final
location for the agency, Newsom said. Over 18 cities bid to host
the agency, including San Diego.
"We made the case on the merits that San Francisco is the
birthplace of biotechnology and bioscience," Newsom said.
The Bay Area contains over 900 biotech companies interested in
developing stem cell research, said Steve Burrill, Chair of the
Mayor's Biotech Advisory Council.
"The Bay Area is the hub of the world's biotech industry,"
Burrill said. "The technology that we are developing will
help patients around the world living with 70 major diseases,
including Parksinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, and diabetes."
Newsom thanked the many donors to the cause, including Dagmar
and Ray Dolby who committed to donating millions of dollars when
Newsom asked originally for $100,000.
"Ray left the office and came back a second later to ask
me how to get the money in right away," Newsom said. "Trust
me, this doesn't happen all the time in my line of work."
Donald Fisher, founder of GAP Inc., is one of the major donors
to the gala.
"The opportunity to save lives through this research is
enormous," Fisher said. "Even though it may not affect
me, such research will impact my children and my grandchildren."
After the dinner, guests proceeded to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
for a visit with Academy, Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Golden Globe
Award-winning actress and singer Julie Andrews.
Photo courtesy Julie Andrews
The celebrity filled event also included Broadway stars Lee Roy
Reams, Rebecca Luker and George Dvorsky accompanied by Larry Blank
and his orchestra.
Reams performed the "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Pretty
Women" from Sweeney Todd." Luker sang "Never Neverland"
from "Peter Pan" and "The Trolley Song" from
"Meet Me in St. Louis." Dvorsky sang "Taking a
Chance on Love" from "Cabin in the Sky." Luker
joined him to perform "That's All I Ask of You" from
"Phantom of the Opera."
"Your support will surely save lives," Luker said to
Award wining composer Marvin Hamlisch performed a solo concert,
including the score of "A Chorus Line" and versions
of "Happy Birthday" using the styles of Beethoven and
Mozart. Hamlisch composed over 40 motion picture scores and his
groundbreaking show "A Chorus Line" received a Pulitzer
"All of us are onto something major," Hamlisch said.
"I'm glad to be here tonight as someone who believes in this
Hamlisch even made up a song which he dedicated to the event
and stem cell research efforts.
"Soon, we'll get there soon," Hamlisch sang, "We'll
say at last we've done our part. We've made our mark. We'll get
Andrews spoke about her life and career and answered questions
from the audience. Andrews also applauded Strobin and many attendees
for their efforts.
"It takes courageous people with a vision to make a difference,"
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine funds stem
cell research directed toward therapies for those suffering from
chronic disease and disability, Hall said. Voters approved the
creation of the agency in 2004 through Proposition 71, which authorized
$3 billion of funding towards stem cell research.
The agency issued its first grants in April, Klein said. $12.1
million in grants will help train 169 students at 16 state universities
and other non-profit organizations, such as Stanford University,
the University of California-Berkeley, and the J. Gladstone Institutes
of San Francisco.
Investor Paul Pelosi (left)