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Wing Pepper Dies at 92

G. Willing "Wing" Pepper, a longtime friend and vice-chairman emeritus of Fox Chase Cancer Center died April 21 at his home in Media, PA. He was 92.

Pepper first came to Fox Chase in 1973 after retiring as president and chief operating officer of Scott Paper Company where he spent 34 years. Fox Chase was where he decided to forge his second career: volunteer service.

Affectionately nicknamed "Dr. Pepper" by the Fox Chase staff, Pepper joined the board of trustees of Fox Chase Cancer Center's Institute for Cancer Research. He was elected vice chairman of the ICR board in October 1973 and board chairman in 1974.

Pepper was instrumental in the growth of Fox Chase as one of the first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, when ICR and American Oncologic Hospital united to form Fox Chase Cancer Center. At that time, he became vice chairman of the Center's board of directors.

According to Robert Young, Pepper's business acumen and negotiating skills also helped bring the first hepatitis B vaccine into commercial development. The vaccine was invented at Fox Chase by Baruch Blumberg.

"Wing contributed mightily to this institution," Young said. "He ably advised each of the Center's presidents and the administrative staff. A man of great wisdom, always there when needed, he was a great personal source of strength to me."

Although he retired from the Fox Chase board of directors in 1987, he remained active in his support. In 1988, Pepper became the founding chairman of a new volunteer group, the Board of Advocates, whose members act as ambassadors for Fox Chase in the community at large.

Fox Chase staff valued Pepper not only for his talents in achieving solutions but also for what Young called "the gift of sparkle" and "the power to make people feel good about themselves."

"In conversation with Wing, he made you feel like the most important person in the room," said epidemiologist Tom London. "When Wing first came to Fox Chase, he would visit scientists in their labs. He had a genuine interest and was truly seeking to learn as much as he could about research under way at the Center."

At the Fox Chase reception announcing the Wing Pepper Chair in Cancer Research in January 1999, longtime friend and then-vice president Jay McKay said, "I can't think of an individual who is more deserving of the honor."

"He has gotten to know so many of us," structural biochemist Jenny Glusker said on an earlier occasion, when Pepper received the Center's 1990 Stanley P. Reimann Honor Award. "He understands that science needs nurturing and he certainly has done a wonderful job."

Pepper was a leading figure in the business, civic and social life of Philadelphia since the 1940s. He also served his country. During World War II, Pepper was on active duty with the Navy. He served in the South Pacific and was aboard the carrier USS Wasp when it was sunk in the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. Pepper earned the Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and numerous military honors for his service.

Born in Philadelphia, Pepper attended St. Mark's School, St. Stephen's College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in the class of 1934.

Pepper is survived by his wife of 33 years, Jane Pepper, president of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society; a son, Charles; a daughter, Josephine Scully; stepdaughters Nancy Holter, Diana Michener, Virginia Nivola and Cynthia Whitman Bradley; nine grandchildren and nine step-grandchildren.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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