Twenty-eight years ago, Marlene Goodman Greenebaum was diagnosed with breast cancer. For her and her husband, real estate developer and philanthropist Stewart J. Greenebaum, it was a transformative moment in their lives, one in which they decided to utilize their resources and energies to helping people impacted by the disease.

Marlene Greenebaum passed away on Dec. 23 from complications related to breast cancer. She turned 80 last week.

The funeral for Greenebaum was held Dec. 26 at noon at Temple Oheb Shalom in Pikesville. She was interred at Oheb Shalom Memorial Park, on Berrymans Lane in Reisterstown.

Stewart Greenebaum died on Dec. 10, 2017, at the age of 81 of complications from a stroke. The Greenebaums, who met on a blind date, were married for more than 57 years.

In a statement, Debra S. Weinberg, chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and Marc B. Terrill, the federation’s president, said, “The Associated is saddened to inform you of the passing of Marlene Greenebaum, mother of Board member Michael Greenebaum. … Our thoughts are with Michael and the entire Greenebaum family during this difficult time. May her memory be for a blessing.”

In 1996, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum, who lived in Pikesville and belonged to Oheb Shalom, donated $10 million to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. It was the largest private donation ever received by either institution.

Subsequently, the University of Maryland’s cancer center was renamed the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCC).

“He really wanted to leave the world a better place than when he came into it and helped multiple institutions whenever he was able to,” Marlene Greenebaum told Jmore last year after her husband’s death “He was just interested in helping humanity.”

Supporting cancer initiatives at UMMC remained a top priority for the Greenebaums.

“I had absolutely wonderful care,” she said, crediting oncologists, nurses and other support staff there for her survival. “Not only are they the best at what they do, but they’re also very compassionate, caring people. …

Stewart Greenebaum

Stewart J. Greenebaum and his wife, Marlene, originally met on a blind date.

“In 1995, on the five-year anniversary of my diagnosis, Stewart said we should commemorate my recovery,” Greenebaum recalled. “I thought we would just go to dinner; I had no idea he’d reveal a plan to name the cancer center in my honor!”

The gift enabled UMGCC’s clinical, research and training programs to become one of only 68 centers in the country to receive the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation. The center is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 50 cancer hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.

The Greenebaums also served on the UMGCC Board of Advisors, and they became strong advocates for for cancer causes.

“After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stewart researched it from top to bottom,” Greenebaum said. “One doctor said he’d never seen a lay person who was so knowledgeable on the subject.”

In 2007, the Greenebaums established the Greenebaum Compassion Award, which recognizes a member of the UMGCC staff who exemplifies extraordinary caring and compassion in patient care.

Michael Greenebaum, along with his friend and running partner, Jon Sevel, established the annual Maryland Half Marathon & 5K, benefiting UMGCC.

In addition to their volunteerism, the Greenebaums created the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professorship in Oncology, held by UMGCC Director Dr. Kevin J. Cullen.

“Marlene and Stewart were tireless advocates and benefactors for our cancer center,” said Dr. Cullen, who first met the Greenebaums in 2004. “Marlene was a wonderful human being. They were great partners and incredibly engaged in the community. For those of us working in the field, their support was absolutely crucial in pushing our work forward.

“With Marlene, it was always what could she do to help others,” he said. “She was incredibly generous in that way.”

The Greenebaums’ dedication to cancer research and education extended beyond the United States. They founded the Marlene Greenebaum Multidisciplinary Breast Center at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Dr. Cullen said it was an honor to travel with the Greenebaums to Israel five years ago to participate in the dedication of the center there.

“Marlene was always so focused on how she could help other people,” he said. “But she also had a wonderful sense of humor. She and Stewart had a partnership that was quite remarkable. It was a wonderful marriage, and I can’t think of another couple with that kind of legacy. We’ll miss her a great deal.”

Said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and chief executive officer of UMMC and the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Professor of Radiation Oncology at UMMC: “She was the embodiment of grace and compassion along her own cancer journey and in how she supported others on theirs. Her strong spirit and sense of purpose made the phrase ‘Where Hope is a Way of Life’ our mantra at the Cancer Center which bears hers and her beloved late husband’s names.

“The immeasurable impact of Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum will forever be remembered by the countless lives touched by their generosity, hope and humanity. We are eternally grateful for Marlene’s remarkable life, and extend our deepest sympathies to the Greenebaum family.”

Besides her advocacy in fighting cancer, Marlene Greenebaum, a Baltimore native, was a past president of the Oheb Shalom Sisterhood and Miriam Lodge, as well as a board member of Covenant Guild.

“Marlene was unquestionably an extraordinary wife and a thoroughly devoted mother and grandmother,” said Rabbi Donald R. Berlin, rabbi emeritus of Oheb Shalom, who officiated at Greenebaum’s funeral. “Still, in a quiet and modest way, she left a significant impact through her interests, her commitments and her generosity upon her friends, her congregation, on the Jewish people and on the Baltimore community. She loved life and desired more of it for more people more of the time.
“She had been diagnosed with cancer almost 30 years ago,” he said. “She was deeply grateful for the medical treatment and personal support she received on her journey back to health. She knew the fear and anxiety this dreaded disease afforded. On the seventh anniversary of her initial cure, her husband, Stewart, gifted her with the University of Maryland Hospital Cancer Center bearing their names. Her gratitude far exceeded the dollars contributed as she dedicated herself personally to easing the fears others experienced and to enshrining the gift of hope for them to hold sacred.
“Her life was truly a blessing.”
UMMC media event

University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center Director Dr. Kevin J. Cullen: “Marlene was always so focused on how she could help other people,” (Photo by Simone Ellin)

Greenebaum explained that fighting cancer was important to her and her family because “when I was growing up, if people had the ‘Big C,’ they didn’t talk about it. I’m extremely gratified to know that in sharing my story and publicly pledging my support for cancer causes, I have had a role in changing that — and in making life a little brighter for all those with this disease.”

Greenebaum is survived by her daughter, Amy Burwen, and son-in-law, Steve Burwen; her son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Adele Greenebaum; three grandchildren, Robert (Amy) Greenebaum, Heather Greenebaum and Samantha Greenebaum; and former daughter-in-law, Nona Nisman Greenebaum.

Contributions in Marlene Greenebaum’s memory may be sent to the University of Maryland, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, 110 S. Paca Street, Baltimore, Md. 21201.