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The one hundred honoree: Helen G. Drinan

Donor Story

The one hundred honoree: Helen G. Drinan

Mass General Giving

When Helen Drinan, president of Simmons College, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she dubbed herself a cancer warrior and proceeded to share the first steps of her cancer odyssey on the op-ed page of The Boston Globe. President Drinan did so, she wrote, “to alert others to the risk of breast cancer and the hopeful power of early detection.”

Her October 2014 op-ed piece was just the beginning. As she embarked on chemotherapy and daily doses of radiation, President Drinan included updates about her treatment in her regular weekly email, “Thoughts from the President,” distributed to nearly 6,000 Simmons students, faculty, trustees and staff. In her missives, she identified the specific stage of her disease, described losing her hair, and revealed her feelings of anxiety. She even posted a selfie during chemotherapy.

President Drinan, previously the head of human resources at Bank of Boston and Caritas Christi Health Care, has led the predominantly female Simmons for the past seven years. At the conclusion of her Globe essay, she stated two personal goals: the celebration of the senior class’ accomplishments at commencement in May and the completion of her cancer treatment.

Today, President Drinan has undergone her final radiation treatment and will hand out diplomas to hundreds of proud graduates. Her honesty about her own disease and her message about early detection has prompted many Simmons women to schedule mammograms and become active in breast cancer awareness, helping President Drinan achieve her ultimate aim “to use this evil challenge as an opportunity for good.”