Suzann Bresler Goldstein ’85 has transformed the personal loss of her only two children from cancer into a life’s work dedicated to providing health care, hope and inspiration to countless others. Suzann, along with her husband Edwin SB ’57, co-founded The Valerie Fund in 1976 shortly after the death of their daughter Valerie, who died of bone cancer at the age of nine. This non-profit organization provides support for the comprehensive health care of children with cancer and blood disorders in seven outpatient medical centers in major hospitals throughout New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City.
The Valerie Fund Children’s Centers for Cancer and Blood Disorders form the largest network of hospital-based outpatient healthcare facilities in New Jersey and one of the largest in the nation. What began in the living room of the Goldstein home has grown through Suzann’s leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy. Today, the centers host more than 25,000 patient visits each year and provide state of the art comprehensive care close to home for children and their families.
In 1981, a fresh interest in academics compelled Suzann to consider completing the college degree she had begun long before coming to Douglass. She quickly earned an Associate’s Degree with honors at Somerset County Community College and matriculated to Douglass College where she became part of the Bunting Program and was a Commuter Adviser. She excelled academically, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year and graduated summa cum laude.
Suzann went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in sociology at Rutgers. She entered the Rutgers doctoral program in medical sociology while working as a research assistant in the Sociology Department and practicing as a medical sociologist on field-related projects. Suzann left before completing the last of her doctoral work to care for her daughter Stacy who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 at the age of 25. Stacy died from the disease in 2001 at the age of 37.
Born out of this tragedy, Suzann, in collaboration with her husband, renamed the breast cancer center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, to the Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center at RCINJ. It is New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Suzann’s commitment to public service and to resolving healthcare issues has been recognized with many awards, including New Jersey’s Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Washington, D.C. Jefferson/Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Public Service, Somerset County Woman of the Year for Public Service, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s University Medal of Excellence, and the Albert Harrison Award for Extraordinary Commitment to Services for Children with Special Health Needs from the New Jersey Department of Health.
She serves on the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Health Foundation, has served on The Valerie Fund Board of Directors, the New Jersey State Child Placement Review Board, and the New Jersey State Department of Health Parental and Child Health Advisory Committee.
Suzann shares her story in her memoir, The View from Within: One Mother’s Story, and is a freelance writer and poet. She blogs at www.unexpectedlives.com, and is currently co-authoring a book on resilience in mothers with special needs children.
The Associate Alumnae of Douglass College and Douglass, will induct three distinguished alumnae into The Douglass Society at the 2014 Douglass Society Induction Ceremony in Voorhees Chapel on October 8, at 10:55 a.m. This year’s honorees are: Linda J. Caldwell Epps ‘73, Student Affairs and Higher Education Leader; Suzann B. Goldstein ’85, Co-Founder of The Valerie Fund and Health Care Advocate; Diane LeBow, Ph.D. ’61, Educator, Writer, Activist, and Photojournalist. The Douglass Society was established in 1973 to recognize alumnae who have made major contributions in their field of expertise and whose life work embodies exceptional accomplishments and leadership. Register online to attend the induction ceremony.