The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was founded in 1946 by a group of forward-thinking women dedicated to enhancing the hospital environment and level of patient support that have always been the hallmarks of MSK. Years ahead of their time, these women understood that cancer is not solely a physical disease, and the effects of a diagnosis of cancer and its treatment present many emotional, psychological, and social challenges for patients and their families. They recognized that, to be truly effective, medical treatment needed to address the entire person, an approach that today is known as “holistic.” 

Coffee being served by Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering members to patients at the Breast Center, 1956

With this in mind, the members of The Society of MSK set about to improve and enhance the patient experience by providing recreational therapy, art, fresh flowers, and other meaningful gestures of support and caring. 

Clelia Delafield, Founding Chairman of The Society of MSK, remembered, “When The Society was founded, one of our major objectives was to fill the immediate needs of the hospital. From the beginning we urged all departments to present their respective needs and promised to make every effort to fill them... In addition, The Society had plenty of ideas of its own with regard to increasing comfort, beauty, and morale for the patients and those who attend to them; plenty of ideas on the vital matter of education of the public for its protection against cancer, and for support of the cancer hospital.” 

Observed a former director of MSK's Volunteer Resources Department, “The Society's unique gift to the institution is that, because the members are lay people, they've been able to maintain a focus on what patients and their families experience. They can nudge the institution, and sometimes push it, to stay focused on doing things that are going to make the patients' days not just clinically good, but environmentally good.”

As the work of these imaginative and energetic women became felt throughout the hospital, it was soon clear that they also had an extraordinary ability to raise much-needed funds both for patient care programs and for vital scientific research. Over many years, The Society's financial support has made it possible for MSK to expedite innovative cancer investigations and to assume its position as the nation's preeminent cancer research and treatment center.


The Society Today

The Society of MSK is stronger today than at any time in its history. True to the vision of its founders, The Society has raised more than $100 million in support of cancer research, patient care, and education. During this time, The Society has evolved into a unique, internationally renowned volunteer organization. It has grown into a full partner of the Center with a profound influence on its development. It is involved in policy, fund raising, and the support of research, patient care programs, and education.

The Society of MSK consists of an Administrative Board of 63 Members-at-Large and another 66 members who participate in 21 working committees that further patient care, research, and educational programs on the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. The Society's members also dedicate their time and energies to year-round “hands on” volunteer initiatives. Continually updating and refining its services to respond to the needs of the institution and its patients, The Society remains a vibrant, dynamic, and highly effective organization that works hard to raise funds for its vital programs.


Past Presidents

2015-2017   Lavinia Branca Snyder

2013-2015   Martha Vietor Glass

2011-2013   Dr. Annette U. Rickel

2009-2011    Mrs. Thomas V. (Heather) Leeds

2007-2009    Mrs. Peter D. (Leslie) Jones

2005-2007    Mrs. Bijan (Vera) Safai

2003-2005    Mrs. Arie L. (Coco) Kopelman

2001-2003    Mrs. William M. (Laurie) Carson

1999-2001    Mrs. Derek L. (Nicole) Limbocker

1997-1999    Mrs. Coleman P. (Susan) Burke

1995-1997    Mrs. M. Anthony (Karen) May

1993-1995    Alison Barr Howard

1991-1993    Mrs. Frank A. (Judy) Metz, Jr.

1989-1991    Mrs. Jay H. (Kari) McDowell

1987-1989    Mrs. Bruce A. (Barbara) Gimbel

1985-1987    Mrs. William (Barbara) Harbach

1981-1985    Jean Remmel Little

1979-1981    Mrs. Kerryn (Shirley Maytag) King

1977-1979    Mrs. Edwin (Virginia Hutton) Burke

1975-1977    Mrs. John (Fifi) Schiff

1973-1975    Mrs. Thorburn (Phyllis) Rand

1971-1973    Mrs. Walter B. (Jean) Delafield

1969-1971    Mrs. Elliot T. (Hope) Goodwin

1967-1969    Mrs. David (Lee) Granger

1965-1967    Mrs. Charles (June) Dyson 

1963-1965    Mrs. Harold (Jean) Behlke

1960-1963    Mrs. Donald (Helen) Perkins

1959-1960    Mrs. William L. (Doris) Fort

1957-1959    Mrs. Charlies F. (Alice) Darlington, Jr.

1955-1957    Mrs. John E. (Nancy) Stevens

1953-1955    Mrs. Frank B. (Pauline) Washburn

1951-1953    Mrs. Isaac F. (Ellen Pets) Marcosson

1950-1951    Mrs. Victor A. (Martha) Barnes

1948-1950    Mrs. Cornelius C. (Hope) Felton

1946-1948    Mrs. Edward C. (Clelia) Delafield, Founder