Barbara, at home

Barbara Hanania at home

Barbara Hanania began building her legacy long before she realized it. 

From her entry to the film industry as its first female cinematographer to her focus on the nonprofit arena in public television to her work on many documentaries to the generous gift to PanCAN from her estate this year, Barbara’s life’s work was to improve the world around her. 

In keeping with that legacy, the Estate of Barbara Hanania made a $500,000 gift to PanCAN this year, $300,000 of which was designated for a Giving Tuesday Triple Challenge, meant to inspire others to do more against the disease.  And inspire it did, as the PanCAN community rose to meet the challenge! This generous bequest follows another gift made earlier in 2023. 

Barbara Hanania, from the Brandeis University Reunion Yearbook

Barbara Hanania, from the Brandeis University Reunion Yearbook

Barbara traveled all over the world filming for shows like “Nova,” “Eyes on the Prize” and “Frontline.” More in her own words, from a bio she had submitted to Brandeis University, her alma mater: 

“I graduated early and got a job at WGBH (Boston’s PBS station) in the film department and worked there as a film editor for 10 years. After deciding I could no longer be encased in a windowless room, I clawed my way into becoming a freelance cinematographer, where no women were allowed. Thankfully, things have improved, but not enough.”

Barbara passed away from pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2022. Both her grandfather and her father also passed away from the disease. In fact, when her father was diagnosed in 2004, she somehow found the nascent PALs program at PanCAN (now PanCAN Patient Services) and reached out for information and resources. 

Life-long friend Nick Monsma says he’s not surprised that Barbara was able to find such a program, even in its early stages. 

“She was trained as a scientist, then found her way into film,” said Nick, who was like family to Barbara. “She was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known, able to find out anything, so it makes perfect sense she would have uncovered this help for her father.”

Nick and Barbara Epstein, co-executor of the Estate of Barbara Hanania, made the decisions regarding Barbara’s estate together. The gift to PanCAN followed, in Nick’s words, “a circuitous route,” with three main events.

Barbara and Nick, on a sailboat, shortly after meeting.

Barbara and Nick on a sailboat, shortly after meeting.

Nick is close friends with one of the founders of Stand Up to Cancer, to whom a similar gift was made. She suggested Nick look at PanCAN, as well. Meanwhile, Barbara Epstein was doing her own research and found PanCAN through an online search. The circle was closed with the realization that Barbara Hanania herself had reached out to PanCAN so many years ago on behalf of her father.

What differentiated PanCAN to Nick and Barbara Epstein? The human touch. 

“PanCAN’s public outreach is second-to-none. This gift is about being able to multiply efforts and engage more people,” Nick said. “Raising awareness – and inspiring others to step up to give.”

Barbara Hanania continues to inspire through her life and her legacy. The entire PanCAN community is grateful to Barbara and her estate for their generosity and their confidence.

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