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Joseph Grusemeyer: A Friend of Wistar

Attend almost any social event at The Wistar Institute and you will find Joseph Grusemeyer, somewhere in the room, chatting with researchers. Sometimes you will see him asking them about their work, but just as often he will simply be listening, nodding attentively over cheese and crackers. 

Such a fixture that he is, it is surprising to note that Grusemeyer, although a life-long resident of the region, may never have known Wistar if it were not for the day in 2002 that he heard Wistar CEO Russel E. Kaufman, M.D. on the radio. “That very moment I thought, you know, this place sounds important and I really ought to get to know it,” he recalled.

Grusemeyer has always been a science enthusiast and, since that time in 2002, a friend of the Institute. Moreover, Joseph Grusemeyer is a benefactor. This summer, he made it known that he would be leaving a generous gift for Wistar in his will.

“I cannot overstate the importance of gifts of this nature to the Institute, which will go to broaden our endowment,” said Kaufman. “With support from our friends like Joe Grusemeyer, The Wistar Institute is able to recruit new faculty, upgrade its facilities, and, ultimately, advance the progress of medicine.”

“I’ve been following medical science for years, and we have seen some great things happen in medicine within my lifetime,” Grusemeyer said, “I’d like to see more advances in cancer and I hope to contribute to that.”

Born to farmers of modest means in southern New Jersey, Grusemeyer never realized his own dream of attending medical school. He paid his own way through Catholic high school in Camden — while he also played semiprofessional baseball — before heading off to Peirce College of Business in Philadelphia to study accounting. He returned to Camden as an accountant in a division of RCA catering to the Department of Defense, where he remained through buyouts to General Electric and Lockheed Martin before retiring in 2004.

Now, he enjoys the fruits of his labors. He spends most of his time in his Berlin, New Jersey home, but summers not too far away at his house in the historic Gardens district of Ocean City, where he is known to ply visitors with homegrown plants and vegetables. He enjoys his membership at the Greate Bay Country Club, but prefers deep-sea fishing to golf.

Grusemeyer always took a special interest in the scientific progress against disease, particularly after losing a close friend to ovarian cancer. He never misses an opportu- nity to query Kaufman on progress in the field of ovarian cancer, and expressed great satisfaction in the recent recruitment to Wistar of José Conejo-Garcia, M.D., Ph.D., whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the disease. 

Ultimately, however, he made the decision to give to Wistar in much the same way he decided to invest for his retirement — by asking what this investment may yield. Little did Wistar faculty members know that Grusemeyer was not just curious about their work, he was doing a little research of his own — probing the depths of their potential to advance cancer science.

“Giving to The Wistar Institute was an easy decision,” Grusemeyer said. “The greatest investment you can make is to bet on the human mind’s ability to solve problems.”