Dan Mordecai was a larger-than-life kind of guy. An entrepreneur with an endless supply of business ideas. A hard worker. Great dad and devoted to his family. Everybody loved him.
Pancreatic cancer ran in Dan’s family – his mother died of the disease.
And years later, in 2002, Dan did, too.
Today, his wife, Janet, is making sure Dan’s legacy continues, and one of those ways is by including a gift to PanCAN in her will.
“The work PanCAN does is terrific,” Janet said. “The new programs PanCAN has started – like Know Your Tumor® and Precision PromiseSM, and helping people find clinical trials – I’m very impressed at the wonderful job this organization is doing.
“That’s why I started giving to PanCAN and will continue to give. It’s why I’m leaving a gift to PanCAN in my will.”
After Dan’s passing, Janet sold his business and created the Daniel and Janet Mordecai Foundation so that the proceeds from the sale could support causes important to them.
Dan had founded a nurse staffing business when he was in his mid-50s. It was mildly successful at the start, but it ramped up and became more lucrative as he expanded the coverage area over the next 15 years.
But at age 70, Dan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given five months to live.
Janet recalled Dan telling her, ‘This is the end of the road for me. Let’s sell the company and you can start a foundation with the money we make.’
So that’s what I did, and I was lucky to have a large sum of money to do something productive with. We started our foundation in 2003 and with a big goal in mind of giving to defeat pancreatic cancer.”
Daniel and Janet’s children were each given a set amount of money to give to causes they cared about.
After doing their research into worthwhile organizations and discovering that they aligned with PanCAN’s mission, values and comprehensive approach to fighting pancreatic cancer, they decided to give a single large donation to PanCAN.
“They were interested in funding research, especially the genetics of a disease that took their father and grandmother,” Janet said.
Their gift of $1.4 million in 2011 (the largest private gift to PanCAN at that time) funded five pancreatic cancer research grants – the Daniel and Janet Mordecai AACR Career Development Award for four researchers – as well as a PanCAN Pathway to Leadership Award.
The Career Development Awards gave all four scientists who received grants the opportunity to pursue discoveries in pancreatic cancer – launching their careers.
Since then, the Mordecai Foundation has funded an additional Career Development Award for a total of six scientists committed to advancing pancreatic cancer research, in addition to other generous gifts that allow PanCAN to invest in research, patient support and changing lives for all patients with pancreatic cancer.
“I would have never had this opportunity if I hadn’t sold our business,” Janet said.
Dan and Janet’s story started on a lunch date.
He dazzled her over dessert with his devotion to his two girls – he talked nonstop about them, she said. They were married for 28 years and had two sons together. Throughout, Janet continued her career in nursing, and Dan worked on building his business.
After he died and the business was sold, Janet found advisors and a financial planner she trusted, and they helped her with Foundation matters as well as providing input on where to give the money.
“We really hadn’t had money throughout our marriage, and I had never expected to have it, so I needed guidance.”
Janet also makes sure friends and other family know about the work PanCAN is doing – and how the organization helps pancreatic cancer patients. She told a friend who was recently diagnosed to call PanCAN Patient Services to find out what clinical trials they might be eligible for.
She said she knows Dan would be proud and happy that his family has been able to give back to the pancreatic cancer community.
“He would agree with the vision of PanCAN,” she said.
“Also, anything that you can do that makes a person’s life better feels good. I’ve had some wonderful surprises along the way. Things I didn’t expect, and so it’s been a wonderful journey to give back and I’m glad to support PanCAN. One day there will be a cure, and I’ll know that I helped.”