Monday night, Cipriani Wall Street played host to denim-clad doctors, financiers and celebrities as The Basser Center celebrated their third Jean Bash. The biennial gala focuses on individuals making change in breast cancer awareness, research and prevention.
Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, opened the evening, quieting a crowd of over 1,000 who turned out for the cause. She then introduced the power couple behind the organization: Mindy and Jon Gray. After a rousing standing ovation in support of the founders, who have donated $55 million to Basser, the two took turns sharing very personal stories, never letting go of each other while they spoke. Jon, the billionaire COO of The Blackstone Group, shared how he met Mindy at UPenn and gave a shoutout to her father, Phillip B. Basser, who at 102 years old is known for his Philadelphia Eagles fandom.
When Mindy took the podium, her eyes watered and voice caught in her throat as she shared a touching tribute to her sister, who left behind a four year-old daughter when she passed away from breast cancer. “She loved her more than evolution required”, Mindy said, moving the room close to tears.
After a public preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, ELLE’s own Editor-in-Chief Nina Garcia accepted an honor “not for myself, but for all of the women who are not as fortunate as I am, the women who didn’t have access to genetic counseling, insurance, or a support system…This is for my sisters everywhere.” A video played in Spanish of the Project Runway judge emphasizing the new LATINX x BRCA initiative Basser started this year to educate the Latinx community about BRCA-related cancers. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, who are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage cancers. The Basser Center is working to spread awareness and provide support to these men and women.
The other honoree of the night was Marla Mehlman, who fought breast cancer for ten years before passing away earlier this year. Her husband accepted on her behalf as eloquently as he penned his well-known article about his and Marla’s decision not to tell their children when she became sick again.
In line with the evening’s theme of turning fear into hope, the night concluded with a lively surprise performance from Jess Glynne.