Benzel Media

Grieving Father Targets Enormous University Endowments to Help Cure Cancer

Cites inequity of their tax-free status leading to mountains of endowment money vs contribution to community. Harvard $39 billion, Stanford $26.5 billion, Yale $29 billion.


Pebble Beach, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/17/2018 --Rider McDowell is a former journalist and entrepreneur (Airborne, Pine Brothers), turned reluctant cancer research crusader. His son Errol, 18, died in June after a terrible six year battle with medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumor in children. While raising desperately needed funding for a number of university labs (Duke, Stanford, UCSF, Case Western, U of Florida and Harvard) McDowell wondered why the universities themselves, with their tremendous endowments, weren't stepping up to the funding plate. "Here is Stanford with a $26 billion endowment, and I'm beating the bushes raising money, sometimes in small amounts, so their researchers can pursue the brilliant potentially curative science they live for, and that so many desperate families long for." According to McDowell, sometimes it takes very little. One $25,000 donation from the McDowell family, directly led to research at Duke, using the Polio virus against Medulloblastoma. The results have been positive, and a potentially curative clinical trial is underway with sick children. Funding from the McDowells and money raised through their late son's charity,, has also advanced the fight against pediatric brain tumors at UCSF, Case Western University, U of Florida, and Stanford., which Errol created with his two younger brothers, has raised close to $1 million dollars, much of this raised $1 dollar at a time.

"It seems obscene that these great universities (Harvard $39 billion, Duke $7.5 billion, Stanford $26.5 billion, et al) should sit on the mountains of endowment money, raised tax-free from the public, and not feel compelled to make the money work towards the betterment of this same public, in this case the fight against cancer. McDowell sites the panoply of tax breaks these schools also receive, including not paying property taxes; which McDowell calls an in-kind donation from the community where the school resides. McDowell feels that, concomitant with the tax free status, a percentage of the amassed endowments should be mandated to be spent on medical research. "Certainly these schools do a lot of good, including building the labs in question, but their relatively stingy and desultory largess, subsidized by the American taxpayer, should benefit these taxpayers more directly. "

McDowell calls it naive to rely on the government alone to cure society's medical ills. "Researchers spend between 1/4 to 1/2 of their time on paperwork pursuing NIH grants, and then more time on paperwork to comply with the grants. The NIH, meanwhile, funds only 6% of all grant requests, due to budget restraints. This means that roughly 94 percent of all grant requests are denied." As a result of this "flawed paradigm," says McDowell, potentially life-saving clinical trials for cancer treatments often never see the light of day. McDowell has been talking to researchers at Harvard's Dana Farber about a cutting edge cancer vaccine and ground breaking stem cell research. "They are desperately seeking $250,000 for research and pre-clinical trials. Yet Harvard's endowment is at $39 billion. $250,000 is less than one half hour's worth of interest on their endowment. And that's criminal."