Purdue Comparative Oncology Research Center Named for Evan and Sue Ann Werling

Monday, June 19, 2023

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Dr. Knapp performs an ultrasound on a black Scottish Terrier with the assistance of veterinary technician Lindsey Fourez and medical oncology resident Rebecca Weiske
Dr. Deborah Knapp conducts an ultrasound in her role as a veterinary oncology specialist in the College of Veterinary Medicine with assistance from medical oncology veterinary technician Lindsey Fourez, RVT, VTS (Oncology) and Dr. Rebecca Weiske, medical oncology resident.

The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine now is home to a named center for comparative oncology research that will advance cancer research benefiting pets and humans. The Purdue University Board of Trustees approved the naming of the Evan and Sue Ann Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center in recognition of the donors’ $10 million gift. As a part of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the center will partner with the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research.

The Werling’s gift establishes the new center, funds the Evan and Sue Ann Werling Professorship of Comparative Oncology, and creates an endowment to provide unrestricted support for promising cancer research and clinical trials. Sadly, just a few months after the naming was announced in December, Evan passed away at the age of 77. He is remembered as a faithful, loving husband, CPA, and international entrepreneur, with an intense desire to inspire and encourage the College of Veterinary Medicine to do its utmost for the benefit of animal patients and the advancement of medical science. Through the transformative gift made by him and his wife, his memory will live on as the center that bears the Werling name fulfills its purpose of conducting research and clinical trials to further the understanding and treatment of cancer, improving the outlook for pet animals and people.

“This generous gift will help transform the research potential of Purdue’s dedicated scientists,” said Purdue Veterinary Medicine Dean Willie Reed. “We’re thankful for the way Evan and Sue Ann partnered with us over the long-term to help us pursue giant leaps in comparative oncology.”

Working in collaboration with the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research, the center will conduct high-impact research in pets that have naturally occurring forms of cancer, which mimic those same forms in humans. This comparative approach to research makes possible the benefit across species.

“This gift makes a huge impact on advancing our studies in the field of comparative oncology, which is aimed at improving the outlook for pet dogs and potentially other pets, as well as humans, facing cancer,” said Dr. Deborah Knapp, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology, the Dolores L. McCall Professor of Comparative Oncology, and research center director. “Most pet owners have human family members and friends who have been afflicted with cancer. Therefore, they are excited that we may learn something important from their pet that will ultimately help humans at the same time we help their pet.”

An Indiana couple, the Werlings shared a passion for improving the lives of animals and people. A former small-business owner, Sue Ann has served more than 11 years on their local humane society’s board of directors, including eight as president. Evan authored the book “The American Dream Is Real,” which chronicled his rise from small-town Indiana to his success as a CPA, entrepreneur, and career mentor. His connection with Purdue began over 40 years ago when he first gave lectures to engineering students on the importance of having a strong financial background for career success.

The group is pictured together in the Werling's home
Sue Ann and Evan Werling (seated), who made a $10 million gift to Purdue University to support comparative oncology research, received the Purdue President’s Council Crystal Boilermaker Special Train Award on December 11 in recognition of their lifetime of loyalty, commitment, and generosity. Pictured standing (from left) are Purdue Veterinary Medicine Dean Willie Reed; Dr. Deborah Knapp, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology; and Matt Folk, president and CEO of the Purdue for Life Foundation. (Photo provided)

When the Werling’s beloved dog Brandi was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2005, the couple developed a life-changing relationship with Purdue. Dr. Knapp helped enroll Brandi in two studies that extended her life 15 months when the median survival time with most treatments at the time ranged from four to nine months.

“Purdue gave us more time with Brandi,” Sue Ann said. “We were intrigued by their methods and the humane way in which they approached their work.”

The exceptional care Brandi received inspired the couple to create an endowment for canine cancer research at Purdue in 2020. The recent naming gift complements that fund and sustains and expands cancer research at the university in perpetuity.

At the time of the naming, Evan said, “Advances in cancer treatments are identified through research, and Purdue is one of the finest research institutions. We hope the university will be able to expand the early detection of cancers so we can identify them before they’re untreatable.”

“It’s a very hopeless time when your animal or loved one has cancer,” Sue Ann said. “This gives me hope that there will be options for people moving forward. We want to be a part of the solution for the future.”

The newly named Evan and Sue Ann Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center meaningfully connects two Purdue health care entities. The College of Veterinary Medicine, Indiana’s only veterinary college, has graduated more than 3,000 veterinarians who practice in all 50 states and also fill important roles in government, industry, and academia. Since 1976, the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research has brought together hundreds of researchers from across the university to share ideas, insights, and findings to drive cancer research further than any single laboratory could do alone.

The action by the Board of Trustees to name the center came as Mitch Daniels was concluding his tenure as Purdue president. “Thanks to Evan and Sue Ann’s generosity, the Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center will pursue groundbreaking research toward developing innovative cancer treatments,” Daniels said at the time. “We are ever grateful for their partnership in this important work that will have a far-reaching impact.”

Writer(s): Purdue for Life Foundation |

Category: Cancer, Giving, Research

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