Retiring Purdue professor gives nearly $1 million to support students; cancer research

September 8, 2014  


Richard and Anne Borch

Richard and Anne Borch stand outside the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, formerly the Purdue Cancer Center. Dr. Borch, Purdue's Lilly Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, is a former director of the center and head of the department.  The couple recently gave nearly $1 million to create endowments to support students and create a chair in cancer therapeutics. (Purdue University photo/courtesy of Richard Borch)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University professor and his wife have given nearly $1 million to create endowments to support graduate students and a chair in cancer therapeutics.

Richard Borch, Purdue's Lilly Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and his wife, Anne, gave a total of $920,000 anonymously in 2010 and 2012, but allowed the College of Pharmacy to reveal their identities upon his retirement.

"Dr. Borch's gifts of scholarship were priceless," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "That he and Anne have extended their commitment to great science at Purdue in this way is truly beyond the call of duty. We are deeply grateful."

The couple made the gift in honor of Dr. Borch's mother, who died of cancer at a young age, and father, who was a friend of past Purdue president Frederick L. Hovde.

"Dr. Borch's tremendous example as a scholar-educator, his personal passion for providing better treatments for cancer and his eminent career in cancer drug discovery make it most fitting that these endowments would come from him and Anne," said Craig Svensson, dean of the College of Pharmacy. "It is especially rewarding to see a faculty member demonstrate such tremendous generosity to the university. As a professor he well understands the critical need for support of this nature to allow us to recruit and retain the very best faculty and students, so that we may continue our tradition of strength and leadership in cancer drug discovery."

Through this gift Borch joins the ranks of 15 faculty members who have given at this level or higher since 1979, when the university began keeping such records.

Borch, who is retiring this month, has been a professor at Purdue for 18 years. He has served as department head since 1996 and also served as director of Purdue's Center for Cancer Research from 1997-2007.

Of the Borches' donations, $800,000 will be combined with $1.25 million from the Lilly Endowment Inc., to create The Martha and Fred Borch Chair in Cancer Therapeutics.

The chair will enable the college to retain or recruit a top scientist in the area of cancer therapeutics in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology.

"In the College of Pharmacy, research on diseases and discovery of potential treatments is a top priority, and Purdue has a broad cancer research effort with deep strengths," Borch said. "My hope is that this chair will bolster an already premier department at a first-class cancer research institution and will lead to the development of treatments that revolutionize care for the next generation of cancer patients."

The new chair, in combination with President Mitch Daniels' drug discovery initiative, Purdue’s National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Department’s strength in discovery and design of new drugs, and talented cancer researchers throughout the university position Purdue to make significant contributions to the treatment of cancer, he said.

Borch's mother, Martha, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and died while Borch was a new faculty member in the chemistry department at the University of Minnesota.

"My mother's cancer and what I learned during her treatment had a profound effect on me," Borch said. "Her oncologist bemoaned the lack of good cancer drugs, and I thought that I could build on my education in chemistry to make a difference. I returned to school to earn a medical degree and devoted my career to developing new cancer drugs."

Before joining Purdue's faculty, Borch was director of the University of Rochester Cancer Center and the Dean's Professor of Oncology in Pharmacology and James P. Wilmot Distinguished Professor at the University of Rochester. He holds more than 20 patents related to potential cancer treatments.

Borch chose to give to Purdue to honor his mother, as an act of appreciation for the opportunities the university gave him in his pursuit of improving cancer treatment and because of his father’s ties to the university, he said. The Borches made the 2010 donation for the endowed chair on the 100th anniversary of his father's birth.

His father, Frederick Borch, was a close friend of Frederick L. Hovde, president of Purdue from 1946-1971. When visiting Purdue regarding an open position in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in 1996, after both his father and Hovde had died, Borch had a meeting in the Frederick L. Hovde Hall of Administration.

"When you enter the building there is a large portrait of Fred Hovde on the wall," Borch said. "I stopped in front of it and was reminded of my father’s friendship with him. I thought the two Freds were up there having a great time seeing me finally make it to Purdue. It reassured me I was making the right decision to pursue the rest of my career at Purdue, and now it reassures me that giving back in this way is the right thing to do."

The Borches also gave $120,000, which will be matched through the university’s graduate education match program, to establish the Borch Graduate Endowment to support a research assistantship for a graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology.

Financial support for students is a priority of the college, Svensson said.

"Nationwide, graduate student indebtedness is becoming an area of increasing concern," he said. "At the same time federal grant support, which provides a good deal of our graduate student support, has been declining. Philanthropic support is critical to achieving this goal and training the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists."

Assistantships provide students with financial support throughout their doctoral degree program and are offered to all admitted students in the department. Research assistantships are especially important since they allow the students to spend more time in the laboratory and focus on their research, Svensson said.

The Borches hope their gift will inspire others to donate to the endowment so that more students can receive support and pursue advanced degrees in the pharmaceutical sciences.

"As I end my scientific career, I wanted to highlight the importance of training future scientists," said Borch, who has trained around 70 graduate students over his career. "The need to develop new treatments for many different diseases continues. Although we have seen great growth in the ability of science to solve the problems we face, the future holds new challenges. We must maintain a strong body of scientific talent to address these challenges."

Borch has won multiple teaching awards, including the 2014 Dr. Aziz Teacher of the Year Award from Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, the George Taylor Teaching Award and the I.T. Alumni Society Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Minnesota and the Outstanding College Chemistry Teacher Award from the American Chemical Society. He also is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Chemical Society and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Borch earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Stanford University in 1962, his master's and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Columbia University in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and his medical degree from the University of Minnesota in 1975. He was a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University and a resident in internal medicine at the University of Minnesota Hospitals.

Purdue's faculty has a history of philanthropy and support of the university. Since the university began keeping such records in 1979, 520 gifts of $25,000 or more have been received from faculty members, totaling $58.7 million. 

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu 

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Craig Svensson, 765-494-1368, svensson@purdue.edu

Richard Borch, borch@purdue.edu

John Dinkens, director of advancement for the College of Pharmacy, 765-494-0501, jadinkens@prf.org

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