Thirty Years as a Driving Force in the Fight Against Cancer
When cancer claimed the life of Herbert J. Block in May 1981, the respect, love and determination of his wife, Maxine, five children and countless friends turned this personal tragedy into a triumph. They transformed their grief into a powerful force that 30 years later continues to energize and inspire individuals and corporations, here and across the country, to support cancer prevention, detection and treatment.
The Herbert J. Block Memorial Tournament was founded in 1982 by Herb’s wife, the late Maxine Block, and children, Janis Block Bloch, Jeff Block, Julie Block Glassman and Jeri Block, who live in the Columbus area, and Jay Block of Englewood, Colorado. They are the architects of this remarkable effort, which has raised $4.5 million for Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC -- James). What started as a tournament memorializing Mr. Block, co-founder of Sun Television and Appliances, devoted family man and community supporter, has turned into a family legacy.
Initially the tournament was held at Winding Hollow Country Club in Columbus. “Everything was done by family and friends,” recalls Jeff. “We invited Dad’s business associates to participate and donated the proceeds to what was then Ohio State’s Department of Oncology.” Along with organizing the golf outing, family and friends arranged a kickoff party and secured donations.
During the 1990s, the Block family developed a remarkable partnership with the OSUCCC – James. As the hospital gained momentum, the Block Memorial Tournament followed suit. Committee members began attracting more sponsors and golfers and ventured to new locations, all the while increasing tournament revenue to support the cause at the heart of it all. “Our goal is to help beat cancer and create the best of the best in treatment and facilities,” says Julie. Since 2009, the tournament has benefited the construction of a new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Their determination and commitment became all the more poignant when the Block children lost their mother, Maxine, to cancer in 1998. Because of their unwavering commitment to create a cancer-free world, the Block family established the “Herbert and Maxine Block Memorial Lectureship for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer” with proceeds from the tournament. “The lectureship honors the memory of our parents and also attracts internationally renowned clinicians and researchers who share the latest advancements,” explains Jeri. The lectureship draws outstanding talent to Ohio State, sometimes permanently. Carlo Croce, MD, for instance, received the award in 2004 when he was director of the Kimmel Cancer Institute/Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Medical College, part of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He subsequently joined Ohio State, where he serves as director of human cancer genetics.
September 16, 2013, will be the 30th time golfers take to the links, for the Block Tournament, which will be at Scioto Country Club. Following this incredible landmark will be the 20-year anniversary Block Memorial Lectureship Award. With these milestones comes a sense of nostalgia, says Janis, “remembering the early days of sitting around the kitchen table, planning visits and sending letters to potential supporters.” Thirty years later, the planning committee remains as determined as ever and continues to devote countless hours toward the cause. Year after year and link after link, the Block Memorial Tournament remains a family-driven event deeply rooted in the Columbus community.
Block Memorial Tournament and Lectureship Facts
- The Block Memorial Tournament is the most successful private golf tournament in Central Ohio.
- Along with Winding Hollow (both the “old” and “new” sites), the tournament has been held at Columbus Country Club, Double Eagle, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Scioto Country Club, and Tartan Fields Golf Club.
- In 1999, Jeff Block created a bucket device designed to drop golf balls from the side of a helicopter. A cash prize is awarded to the individual who purchases the ball landing closest the hole. The “ball drop” has raised more than $100,000 for the OSUCCC – James.
- Past tournament honorary chairs include: Coach Urban Meyer, Robert Smith, Archie Griffin, Coach Joseph Daniels, President E. Gordon Gee (during both tenures at Ohio State), Mike Vrabel, Gene Smith, Coach Thad Matta, Kirk Herbstreit, Eddie George, Coach Jim Tressel, Stefanie and Chris Spielman, Coach Jim O’Brien, Clark Kellogg, Bobby Rahal, Greg Lashutka and Coach John Cooper
- The $25,000 Block Lectureship is one of the largest prizes awarded by an academic institution in the field of cancer.
- Block Memorial Lectureship awardees include: Samuel Broder, MD; Robert C. Young, MD; Bert Vogelstein, MD; Judah Folkman, MD; V. Craig Jordan, PhD, DSc; Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH; Richard D. Klausner, MD; John Potter, MD, PhD; Donald Coffey, PhD; David Botstein, PhD; Daniel Von Hoff, MD; Carlo Croce, MD; Larry Norton, MD; C. Norman Coleman, MD; Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD; George Klein, MD, PhD; Kathleen M. Foley, MD; Bruce A. Chabner, MD; and Levi Garraway, MD, PhD.
To learn more about the Block Memorial Tournament, please visit www.blockmemorialfund.com.