Jean Speare Canellos became a charter member of the Friends of Dana-Farber in its formative years when her husband, Dr. George Canellos, returned from the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C., to become Chief of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber. Her insight and ability to define the salient points of any issue are invaluable tools in promoting the mission of the Friends. She was deeply gratified in more recent years to have been elected an honorary director by her fellow Board members.
Prior to becoming Executive Vice President with Founding President Sheila Cunningham, Jean was a member of the earliest Friends By-Laws Committee which further defined the Friends’ purpose to support research, therapy, training, education, and patient service programs through volunteer activities. The earliest monies raised funded the first annual Friends Fellow in Medical Oncology, which subsequently led to a permanent endowment for this program.
During Jean's term as president, the first major donation of $100,000 was given to the Friends, encouraging a pattern of considering the Friends as a conduit of large gifts to Dana-Farber.
Jean recalls several emotional periods in her life during these years, including working with wonderful people to establish a chapel providing solace for patients and families. Jean appreciated the special care and kindness of the staff when her mother was a patient, and it was heartwarming to learn that one of her mother's platelet donors was the husband of another Friends board member.
Jean received a B.A. in Zoology from Wellesley College, an M.A.T. in Biology and retraining for College Administration from Harvard Graduate School of Education. After teaching secondary school science and math, she worked on the admissions staff of Wellesley College for 21 years. Jean was a trustee and corporator at Dana Hall School as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Region of the National Conference of Community and Justice, where she also served as a national trustee.
Jean continued to work with the Friends in a variety of capacities throughout the decades. Her husband, Dr. George Canellos, has been serving as the William Rosenberg Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Jean feels that it was a special privilege to have seen the Friends evolve into an extraordinary organization of committed individuals supporting the mission of the Institute through expanded programs in patient services, and major fund raising which by 2019 had collectively exceeded $34,000,000.