Ziskin's spirit lives on in fight against cancer
Laura Ziskin's courage and dignity inspired us. Her toughness and grit amazed us. She left an indelible impression on those who knew her best as well as those she touched from afar. She was wildly successful, one of Hollywood's most accomplished executives, but her final chapter was her finest hour.
She fought breast cancer's ravages for seven brutal years, fought it openly and proudly, until her last breath. Laura came to see her journey as something larger, a final production of education and prevention, fundraising and research.
Her memory and spirit burn as brightly as ever in our hearts and minds on this first anniversary of her passing. We are all better because of Laura Ziskin's 61 years on this planet. We know more about cancer, about detection and awareness, how to treat it, and most of all, how to stand up to it.
Major League Baseball was the first major corporate donor to Stand Up 2 Cancer, the organization Laura co-founded with Sherry Lansing, Katie Couric, Rusty Robertson and others from the entertainment industry. Stand Up 2 Cancer advocates getting new therapies to patients quickly through hundreds of researchers and institutions.
Laura's passion was infectious. She took her crusade to Commissioner Bud Selig, who invited her to meet with Major League owners a few weeks before her death.
Selig remembered Laura on Tuesday morning with a note to the other co-founders of Stand Up 2 Cancer:
Dear Julia, Alvin, Ellen, Kathleen, Katie, Lisa, Noreen, Rusty, Sherry, Sue and Pam:
It is difficult to believe that one year ago today we lost our dear friend Laura Ziskin.
While the loss is immeasurable, Laura's inspiring legacy endures through Stand Up To Cancer and the trailblazing movement she helped dream, ignite, and champion.
As Sue and I reflect and remember Laura, we celebrate her indelible impact that lives on through Stand Up To Cancer -- and its innovative model that Laura dared to dream, courageously forged, and to which she was tirelessly committed. Laura's inspiring legacy is carried forward in the groundbreaking work of Stand Up To Cancer Dream Teams that are advancing the fight against cancer by creating new collaborative innovations that are transforming science, improving patient care and saving lives. Thank you to the entire SU2C team for continuing this important work.
On this anniversary of Laura's passing, Major League Baseball launches a Stand Up To Cancer star, in honor of the incomparable Laura Ziskin, whose friendship we dearly miss, and whose inspiring legacy will never be forgotten.
Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig
Laura's finest hour might have been during Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, when she directed a live television commercial by asking 55,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park to stand and wave white towels as a symbol of the fight against the disease. Those white towels were a call to arms against cancer, a plea for more research, more funding, a plea to continue fighting the good fight.
Major League Baseball's involvement in Stand Up to Cancer was a beginning. Other large donors followed. Two televised specials raised $180 million. Dozens of other efforts are ongoing.
In her other life, Laura was one of Hollywood's most successful producers, especially in helping create the Spider-Man franchise and as executive producer of Pretty Woman, which established Julia Roberts as a mega-star. Her other films included "No Way Out," "What About Bob?" and "As Good as it Gets."
In 2002, she became the first woman to produce the Academy Awards show on her own. She did an encore performance in 2007. During five years as president of Fox 2000, she oversaw a string of hits, including "Volcano," "Fight Club" and "Courage Under Fire."
She excelled in an arena that previously had been dominated by men, and her determination offered a preview of what was to follow.
And then came the fight with cancer.
"When you're diagnosed with cancer, the last thing you want to do is join a movement," she once told Variety. "You kind of just want to crawl in a hole."
She didn't do that, and because she didn't, there's more awareness about cancer, more research, more opportunities to continue the fight she started.
Her profile in the entertainment industry opened doors and prompted donations. Still, to those who came to know Laura, it was something personal. It was about following her down the path to a cure, to use every means possible, to never give up. She will forever be the spirit of Stand Up 2 Cancer.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.