Joe Schwarz earned the nickname of Fightin’ Joe for his determination through life.
Schwarz moved with his family from Argentina when he was a youngster in New York City’s Spanish Harlem. Schwarz, whose mother was Argentinean and father was German, shined shoes, worked in grocery stores and delivered newspapers to help his poor family.
In a true rags to riches story, Schwarz, moved to Indianapolis in the 1960s, became a wealthy hotel and apartment developer, owning the Marriott on the east side of Indianapolis.
“He used to describe himself by saying, ‘Not too bad for shoeshine boy,’” said Scott Davison, IU Health board of directors chair.
After successfully battling prostate cancer, Schwarz was diagnosed with throat cancer. It was treated, but the throat cancer returned and he succumbed to the battle in March at age 75. To honor his memory, his wife, Shelly Schwarz, who now lives in Longboat Key, Fla., donated $10 million to IU Health North in Carmel to help with the hospital’s new cancer center, which was named the Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center at a groundbreaking announcement Aug. 23 on hospital grounds.
In a video, Shelly said Joe always said he made his money in Indiana so he “wanted to pay it forward to the people in Indiana who supported his business.”
“(The center) will share resources and expert physicians with IU Health’s nationally recognized Simon Cancer Center at Indianapolis,” Davison said.
Davison described it as a truly transformational gift to support the center’s construction and programs and said it’s the largest philanthropic gift ever to IU Health by a living donor.
“We were given beautiful weather to celebrate the life of an amazing man, an amazing woman and amazing couple and their incredible generosity to this institution and the cause of curing cancer in our lifetime,” he said.
Davison, a Zionsville resident, said it will change the delivery of cancer care in Carmel, other northern suburbs and well beyond.
The $55 million investment will be an 88,000-square-foot, two-story facility on the south side of the IU North campus. The center will include radiation oncology, hematology-oncology, pharmacy, laboratory and patient navigation to surround patients and families with the care and support they need.
“This gift will allow IU Health to offer new and expansive programs at the North cancer center that would not be possible otherwise,” Davison said. “Combined with IU Health investment, the Schwarz generosity will ensure our new cancer meets not only the clinical needs of patients but the emotional, physical and their spiritual requirements as well.”
The center is expected to open in January 2020.