One Family's Gift of Hope
A Wife’s Cancer Journey Inspires Legacy Gift
From the moment Robert Robson met Susanna Castillo, he was smitten. Their Stanford University dorm had gone co-ed in 1971. Robert was a chemistry major; Susie studied history and psychology and loved to talk about Russian history.
“I thought, ‘Wow! This is a very knowledgeable, well-spoken person. I want to get to know her,’” says Robert.
Susie was a student with disabilities resulting from childhood polio. When Stanford administrators made a special effort to help her get around campus more easily—by installing an outdoor electrical outlet at the dorm so she could charge her cart there—she was touched. It was a consideration that influenced her choice of a career in higher education.
Susie and Robert married in 1974. With advanced degrees in chemistry, Robert took a job at Chevron Corp. and stayed for 30 years as a research chemist, product formulator, and technical services group leader. “I was inspired by the basic sciences,” he says.
Susie’s career as a higher education administrator took off at several prestigious institutions—UC-San Diego, Harvard University, and Stanford University. Known for being a relationship builder whom others wanted to work with, she became registrar, interim dean of students, and finally associate vice chancellor of student affairs and services at UC-Berkeley.
“Susie was passionately engaged in disability student services,” says Robert. “She contracted polio when she was 8 months old and never really walked like you and I walk. She developed Type 1 diabetes at the age of 10.”
In 2010, Susie was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She was 58. For the next four years, she endured frequent treatments, undergoing numerous chemotherapy regimens including a stem cell transplant at Stanford and experimental clinical trials.
“Just as she dealt with polio and Type 1 diabetes, Susie dealt with multiple myeloma with courage and optimism,” says Robert.
Through a Stanford-facilitated support group, Susie and Robert became close friends with others facing the same disease.
“This horrible, dreaded disease focused our desire for giving—we wanted to give to basic cancer research,” Robert says. “More effort and more funds were needed to understand stem cell biology and chemistry. We wanted to support fundamental science and help the next generation, so we decided to include a provision for Stanford University School of Medicine in our estate plans.
“Susie passed away in September 2014. She had the benefit of having excellent medical care at Stanford.”
To others who may be considering supporting Stanford Medicine through a gift in your will, trust, or another charitable gift vehicle, Robert says, “Never doubt the money will go to a good use.”