Richard J. O’Reilly, M.D. ’64
“To be a good doctor,” counsels the poet, W.H. Auden, “a man must also have a good character … he must love his fellow human beings in the concrete and desire their good before his own.”
Auden understood the extravagant challenge faced by the true healer—the need to be both scholar and artist, clinician and empath. To possess the fine mind and the caring heart. To sacrifice personally in order to ease the suffering of those around us.
We gather tonight to honor exactly such a “good doctor.” Richard J. O’Reilly has given his life to the pursuit of healing. And the countless lives that have been saved as a result are the joyous and living symbols of his selfless love for his fellow humans.
After receiving his bachelor of arts degree here on the Hill, Rich earned his doctor of medicine degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He performed his Internship at the University of Minnesota Hospitals in Minneapolis and his residency at Children’s Hospital in Boston. But no matter where he landed, his passion for healing never abated.
A distinguished medical practitioner, researcher and teacher, Rich has pioneered the development and clinical application of cellular therapies to treat lethal diseases. He was the first doctor to conduct a successful marrow transplant for an unrelated, compatible donor—a technique now used successfully on more than 2,500 cancer patients annually. Rich also has developed the transplant method that has allowed children born without an immune system to receive a curative transplant from a half-matched parent or sibling.
Today, Rich is the chair of the department of pediatrics and the Claire L. Tow Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is also a professor of immunology at the Cornell University School of Medical Sciences and a professor of pediatrics at the Cornell University Medical College. The author or co-author of more than 300 articles, papers or research studies, Rich has served as a visiting scholar or professor at the University of Rochester, Johns Hopkins, Yale and Emory. He is the recipient of the Pediatric Oncology Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.
For his hungry mind and his benevolent heart, for his ceaseless pursuit of healing and the eradication of suffering, for his mentoring of the next generation of “good doctors,” the College of the Holy Cross presents to Richard J. O’Reilly, M.D. ’64 the Sanctae Crucis Award.