"Cancer research in Indiana would have been pretty sleepy had the Walther Cancer Foundation not existed to enable it to achieve national prominence." ~ Marietta Harrison, Director, Purdue University Oncological Sciences Center
"Without the support of the Walther Cancer Foundation, it is unlikely that the IU Simon Cancer Center would exist in its present form." ~ Patrick Loehrer, Director, IU Simon Cancer Center
"The faculty recruitment programs funded by Walther have been the central piece of building cancer research at Notre Dame." ~ Thomas Burish, Provost, University of Notre Dame
"Following unconventional lines of research requires support from unconventional sponsors. [Walther’s] willingness to sponsor visionary 'out-of-the-box' research has been unparalleled." ~ Don Bergstrom, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Purdue University
"Sustaining great research requires consistent funding. Institutions like the Walther Cancer Foundation have played important roles in supporting high-impact research. Great discoveries today will mean new treatment for cancer tomorrow." ~ Jack Dixon, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Walther Cancer Foundation
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Joseph Edward Walther, M.D. was born in Indianapolis in 1912 and raised in Glenwood, IN. After graduating in 1930 as class valedictorian from Rushville High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. Walther, known as “Smokey” to many of his friends because of his speed and agility as a youth, qualified at age 19 for the 1932 Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles.

Walther went on to earn his M.D. degree from Indiana University in 1936. He served as physician for Pan-American Airways and physician/surgeon for hospitals at Makaweli, Eleele and Koloa in the Territory of Hawaii. He was also a member of the medical staffs of Marion County General (Wishard), Methodist, St. Francis, St. Vincent and Winona Hospitals in Indianapolis.

In his six years of active duty with the United States Air Force, Walther received the Silver Star “for conspicuous gallantry and high professional skill” in the Battle of Midway; the Bronze Star for “heroism and meritorious achievement” at Iwo Jima; the Soldier’s Medal for heroism; and the Air Medal for “high professional skill, courage and devotion to duty.” He went on to serve 24 years in the military reserves and retired as a colonel.

Walther Cancer Foundation
32nd and Meridian Streets
After the war Walther returned to Indianapolis and purchased the Glossbrenner Mansion at 32nd and Meridian streets in 1949. He practiced medicine from this location for several years. In 1966, with the help of a small group of community leaders, he founded the not-for-profit Winona Memorial Hospital and named it in honor of his mother, Winona McCampbell Walther. He was also founder, president and medical director of Memorial Clinic and founder and president of Doctors’ Offices, Inc. in Indianapolis from 1948 until his retirement
Mary Margaret Walther
Mary Margaret Walther

In 1983 Walther’s wife, Mary Margaret, succumbed to colon cancer. In 1985, he sold Winona Memorial Hospital and, with the proceeds, began the Walther Cancer Institute and the Walther Cancer Foundation with a mission to eliminate cancer as a cause of suffering and death.

Throughout his career, Walther was recognized for extraordinary service and accomplishment. He was named a life fellow and master of the American College of Gastroenterology, serving as its president from 1970-1971. The Indiana University School of Medicine honored him as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1989. In the same year, Indiana University awarded him the prestigious A.F. Clevenger Award in recognition of his contributions to his alma mater as a varsity athlete. In 1995, Walther was named a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor bestowed by the Governor of Indiana.

Walther Cancer Foundation
Joe Walther in front of the Mansion
In 1997, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Indiana University and the same from Purdue University in 1998. In 2002, he was named a Health Care Hero by the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ). The Indiana Historical Society named Dr. Walther an Indiana Living Legend. In 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Dr. Joe Walther was a forceful man, who always believed he and others like him could make a difference in the world as he found it. When confronted with the reality of cancer in his own family, he was determined to make a difference in the effort to eliminate it. In a way, he was an optimist, even in the face of the death of his wife. He believed cancer could be eliminated and that he, through the Walther Cancer Institute and Foundation, could help do it.

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