During Chris Ash’s nearly 50 years at Case Western Reserve University, she saw modern buildings rise, leadership change and entirely new areas of study debut.
She earned two degrees—a bachelor’s in history in 1972 and an MBA specializing in accounting in 1981—and worked in the geology department, engineering school and central administration, eventually rising to vice president of university planning and institutional research before retiring in 2015.
She also endured four bouts of lung cancer—a 2003 diagnosis that, 20 years later, spurred Ash and her husband to make a $1.35 million estate gift, $1.25 million of which will go to the university’s Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The gift will establish the Christine and Timothy Ash Fund for Cancer Innovation Research, aiming to drive more targeted therapeutic treatments and earlier diagnoses, helping doctors catch cancers earlier—like they did for Ash—and, hopefully, lengthen patients’ lives.
“Cancer affects so many people; you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t lost a loved one to it,” said Ash, vice president emerita of university planning and institutional research, whose cancer hasn’t been detected since her last targeted radiation treatment in 2021. “And now, there are more and more instances of younger people being diagnosed—especially young women. That’s concerning, and we want to be able to help change that.”
According to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, early-onset cancers in women increased by 4.35% from 2010 to 2019; during that same period, the rate of cancer among all people under age 50 grew by .28% annually.
“This gift will help our researchers test and develop new, innovative methods of cancer therapeutics that can provide better care for each individual patient,” said Gary Schwartz, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and vice dean for oncology at the School of Medicine. “Chris has been an incredible supporter of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, even serving on our Community Advisory Board to help guide our research to ensure it has maximum impact for underserved communities. We are grateful for her support that benefits our work in so many ways.”
The Ashes’ gift first was announced at a Cancer Council meeting in late September, then more broadly during last night’s Flora20 Awards and Symposium event that marked the 20th anniversary of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women. Ash has long been an advocate for the center, serving on its advisory board, and an active alumna of the school that bore the same name.
In fact, their gift extends to remember her time as a Mather College student: The couple committed an additional $100,000 to help renovate the Mather Memorial Building, which formerly housed the commuter lounge where she spent hours between classes. Ash hopes this gift can help keep the historic building intact for generations to come.
“I spent my life at Case Western Reserve,” Ash said. “And I’m honored to be able to give back to a place that did so much for me.”