Trailblazing University cancer researcher dies at 88

A few news updates from the first half of winter break.

By Sam Levine

In case you haven’t been following Hyde Park news over break, here are some updates the Maroon did not want you to miss.

University mourns trailblazing cancer researcher

Professor Janet Rowley (B. Phil. ’44, B.S. ’46, M.D. ’48), who was one of the first scientists to understand the relationship between cancer and genes, died on December 17 at her home from complications from ovarian cancer. She was 88.

In the 1970s, Rowley observed that pieces of certain chromosomes in patients with different types of leukemia had swapped places. The observation led to the development of cancer drugs that could target specific cancer-causing genes while leaving healthy cells untouched, according to The New York Times.

“She developed the Rosetta Stone that has enabled us to begin to dissect leukemias and lymphomas, to understand their progression and how they respond to treatment,” Richard Larson, a blood cancer specialist at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said in a University statement.

Rowley’s research was initially met with skepticism in the scientific community, and she worked hard to persuade others of its significance. Its importance was eventually recognized, and she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Bill Clinton in 1998, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, among other awards.

Rowley enrolled in Hutchins College, a program of UChicago at that time which combined the last two years of high school and the first two years of college, when she was 15. She was accepted to the University’s medical school after finishing her undergraduate degree in 1944 but had to wait nine months to enroll because the 65 person class had already fulfilled its quota of three women.

Later in her life, Rowley credited her University education with giving her the perseverance to stick to her research.

“The U of C taught me to stick to my convictions if I really thought that I was correct, even when others disagree,” she said later in her life, according to the University statement.

She is survived by three sons and five grandchildren. A University memorial service is being planned.

Hairston aide arrested for theft

An aide to Fourth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston was arrested and charged with stealing a $3,000 fur coat during a ceremony at the Quadrangle Club on December 9, the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month.

Surveillance cameras captured Lynnette Hill trying on different coats in the cloakroom and eventually taking one coat that belonged to Zenobia Johnson-Black, the wife of civil rights leader Timuel Black (A.M. ’54). On December 16, police charged Hill with theft. Hill was released on signature bond, and has no prior criminal record, according to the Tribune.

Hill works as a “staff assistant to the Alderman” and makes $52,980 each year, according to a public database of city employees.

Hairston told the Tribune that she was “flabbergasted” by the arrest and said that she was working with the city’s law department to find out the what could be done regarding Hill’s employment.

Old Dunkin’ Donuts location to serve as UCPD satellite office

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) will open an interim satellite office in March in a storefront formerly occupied by Dunkin’ Donuts on 53rd Street.

In a statement announcing the new office at 1411 E. 53rd Street, UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch said that the office will not be a full police station or staffed full time. Instead, the office will be a space where “[UCPD] can hold small meetings on police matters, or where officers can meet with neighbors and business owners,” Lynch said in the statement.

The decision to open the office was in part sparked by University development along 53rd Street, Lynch said. The University purchased the building for $1.5 million last month, DNAinfo Chicago reported.

This year, the UCPD transitioned to a “full service” police force, giving the department more expansive authority that includes detaining and processing individuals after they have been arrested and writing police reports without assistance from the Chicago Police Department.

Thai 55 owner to open sister restaurant next door

Diners on 55th Street will have another Asian option to complement offerings of pad Thai, sushi, and bibimbap, when a new Vietnamese restaurant opens on the block this winter.

Vince Srisak, the owner of Thai 55, told DNAinfo Chicago that he is preparing to unveil a Vietnamese restaurant right next door called Pho 55. The restaurant, opening by early February, will be casual and have about 40 options on the menu, according to DNAinfo.

The Vietnamese restaurant will be the sixth Asian restaurant on East 55th Street between South Lake Park Avenue and South Hyde Park Boulevard, joining the Japanese restaurant Kikuya, Korean restaurant Café Corea, as well as Thai options Siam, The Snail, and Thai 55.

Follow the Maroon at for updates throughout winter break, and follow us on Twitter: @chicagomaroon and @maroon_news.