In memoriam:  Virginia Weinman

It's with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of the biggest supporters of the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center. Virgina Weinman, president of the Weinman Foundation, passed away peacefully on July 31, 2023.

A longstanding champion of medicine and research, Virginia will be remembered for the decades of generosity she showed our center.

Barry and Virginia Weinman created the Weinman Foundation Fund for Innovation in 2010, gifting the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center with a $2M fund. Through this generous gift, the annual Weinman Symposium was established. The goal of the two-day conference is to bring together international experts from different fields of science and medicine, promoting collaboration and brainstorming about specific themes in cancer research.

Over the years, the conference brought together Nobel Prize winners, members of the US National Academy of Sciences, and members of the Nobel Award Committee, and has sparked several research collaborations, leading to seminal discoveries which have impacted patients.

Every year, the event was well attended by UH students, post docs, and local people interested in the field of cancer research. Still, the Weinman’s felt that the symposium could have a greater impact. Hoping to inspire younger students, in 2016, they began inviting high school students, even making arrangements for them to meet with the Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Science so they could ask questions and become inspired to consider careers in science.

“Virginia’s commitment to improving cancer research and care is an honor we hold dearly,” said Naoto T. Ueno, UH Cancer Center Director. “Her legacy will forever remind us of the profound impact one individual can have on the lives of many and how through dedication and vision, we can come together to forge a brighter future in the battle against cancer."

Virginia and Michele
Memories of my friend, Virginia

There are wonderful people with big hearts that do a lot to improve this world, please let me talk about a wonderful person, Virginia Weinman. She had a beautiful smile and a great heart.

She and her husband moved to Hawaiʻi some 20 or so years ago, she loved Hawaiʻi. She met her husband here when she was a student and the husband a Navy officer. When I met her, in 2008, she asked me what she could do to help us fight cancer – she did not know at the time she would develop and die of cancer. We talked and she and her husband agreed to donate 2M dollars to the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center to help us bring here, in Hawaiʻi, the best scientists of the world to discuss new ideas with our Faculty and students and develop research collaboration to fight cancer.

It worked beautifully, thanks to this donation, to this day Nobel Prize winners, members of the US National Academy of Sciences, members of the Nobel Award Committee, and so on, have come to our beautiful cancer center to discuss science and work with us. Together, in Hawaiʻi, we have made seminal discoveries that have impacted patients and saved lives to cancer. But there are too many cancer patients we still do not know how to help.

In addition, Virginia donated several million dollars to the University of Hawaiʻi Medical School to pay the tuition of medical students. She helped many local students from poor families who could not afford the tuition, get a medical degree and serve their community.

She loved animals, dogs in particular, and she donated and fund-raised heavily for local shelters. She never asked for recognition, she was happy to help and she was happy she had the means to do so.

She had been fighting cancer for many years, eventually cancer claimed her life. This is why we have a Cancer Center in Hawaiʻi, to work with the Hawaiʻi hospitals to prevent cancer and find better ways to treat cancer. Cancer is a terrible disease: we must find better ways to deal with it. Virginia understood this long before she got and died of cancer, and she helped us.

When her husband emailed me that Virginia had just died, I felt deeply sad that the world had lost such a wonderful person and that I had lost a very good friend. Yet I also felt relieved that she was no longer suffering. Thank you, Virginia we need many more like you in this world.