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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

The Investiture of Dr. C. David James as the Jean Malnati Miller Professor

Dr. C. David James with Jean Malnati Miller.

On July 25, C. David James, PhD, was formally invested as the Jean Malnati Miller Professor of Brain Tumor Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The gathering celebrated not only Dr. James’ impressive career and accomplishments, but also the tremendous generosity of the Malnati family, whose gift through the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation established this named professorship.

“The creation of named and endowed professorships at Feinberg is enormously important, allowing us to recruit and retain the best and brightest faculty in their fields, like David,” said Maciej S. Lesniak, MD, who served as the evening’s emcee. “We are grateful to the Malnati family. Without their generous philanthropy, this special evening and the professorship we celebrate would not be possible.”

Dr. Lesniak serves as Michael J. Marchese Professor of Neurological Surgery, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, and professor of Surgery and Neurology in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology.

The Jean Malnati Miller Professorship was established in honor of Jean Malnati Miller. In 1971, Jean and her late husband, Lou Malnati, opened the first Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in Lincolnwood, Illinois. From the very start, the couple were passionate about giving back to the community that supported them, and despite just starting the business, they held their first fundraising event that same year. After Lou fell victim to cancer in 1978, Jean and her sons Marc and Rick continued the philanthropic efforts she and Lou had established, eventually creating the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation. Today, the business has grown to include 52 pizzerias serving the Chicagoland area, and Lou and Jean’s tradition of generosity continues annually with the Lou Malnati’s Cancer Research Benefit one-night fundraiser, going on 48 years.

In 2017, the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation made a transformational gift to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, formally naming the Northwestern Medicine Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and establishing the Jean Malnati Miller Professorship.

“We feel the same call to action we did when we started the Foundation—every step we take brings us closer to finding a cure, and we are steadfast in our commitment,” said Marc Malnati. “Dr. James is the kind of person around whom you build a team. He is a shining example of excellence, and we are proud and grateful to support him, to bear witness to his successes, and to be a part of this excellent team at Northwestern.”

In addition to his new role as Jean Malnati Miller Professor, Dr. James serves as vice chair for Research in the Department of Neurological Surgery, professor of Neurological Surgery and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and scientific director of the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of the Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Montreal, during which time he developed an interest in the genetic and molecular biology of brain tumors. This work has served as the primary focus of his investigations for more than 32 years.

“David’s work has directly affected the way in which we treat patients. Because of his scientific discoveries, we are better able to develop novel treatments for the most devastating brain cancers,” said Evanthia Galanis, MD, who extolled Dr. James at the celebration. “David is an exceptional team builder, always bringing talent together and creating bridges. He also epitomizes the definition of a mentor—leading by example to inspire others to grow scientifically, overcome obstacles, and excel in their work.” Dr. Galanis is Sandra J. Schulze Professor of Novel Therapeutics, professor of Oncology, and chair of the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“If not for the support of the Malnati family, it is difficult to know where our program would be. There is much left to do, and I pledge to make sure that our program continues to grow and thrive,” said Dr. James.

Addressing Jean Malnati Miller, Dr. James shared: “I will do my very best to make you proud, working always toward our shared vision for continuously improving outcomes for all brain tumor patients.”

from left to right: Dr. Maciej Lesniak; Dr. C. David James; Dr. Evanthia Galanis; and Dr. Eric Neilson, Lewis Landsberg Dean and vice president of Medical Affairs.