Remembering Paul Sandoval and boosting pancreatic cancer research

Remembering Paul Sandoval and boosting pancreatic cancer research

A recent University of Colorado reception to raise money for a scholarship in honor of the late Paul Sandoval included, from left, Marcy Benson, CU President Bruce Benson, Paula Sandoval, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Dan Theodorescu, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center. (Photo: Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Paul Sandoval brought politicians from both sides of the aisle together again — this time, to celebrate his life. Sandoval, known by many as the godfather of Colorado politics, died in 2012 after battling pancreatic cancer. The Paul Sandoval Pancreatic Cancer Research Scholarship Fund was established through University of Colorado Cancer Center to award a scholarship each year to graduate students focused on pancreatic cancer research.

CU President Bruce Benson and his wife, Marcy, recently welcomed guests at a reception to announce the scholarship, along with Sandoval’s wife, Paula. The Sandoval family wants to fund applicants with the potential to improve the understanding of pancreatic cancer and how it works.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is estimated that 43,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with pancreatic cancer, 74 percent will not survive longer than 12 months.

“It is hard to hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ and when it is pancreatic cancer, well, we thought of it as a death sentence. We chose to stay here in Colorado to get the best level of care and we did not regret the decision,” said Paula Sandoval. “Although he eventually succumbed to the illness, Paul was treated with dignity and compassion at the CU Cancer Center. My husband and I saw the value of establishing a scholarship in his name to carry on the invaluable research so future patients can have hope.”

Approximately 160 people attended the reception to announce the Sandoval scholarship. Bruce Benson and Gov. John Hickenlooper shared fond memories of Sandoval and his unique presence on the Colorado political scene. Colin Weekes, M.D., Sandoval’s oncologist at the CU Cancer Center, talked about how Paul inspired the people around him to “live a life of purpose.”

Weekes also introduced the first recipient of the Paul Sandoval Pancreatic Cancer Research Scholarship, Melanie Blevins, MS.

“Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating to individuals and their families so we are grateful to the Sandoval family for helping us continue our mission of finding the best possible treatments for cancer and bringing patients the best possible care,” said Dan Theodorescu, M.D., Ph.D., director of CU Cancer Center. “Paul Sandoval brought people together to work toward a common goal. That’s what CU Cancer Center does by gathering researchers throughout Colorado to work in teams that will eventually conquer this disease.”

Along with the Bensons, Gov. Hickenlooper and Mrs. Sandoval, the evening was hosted by Ken Salazar, Former Interior Secretary and U.S. Senator, and Hope Hernandez-Salazar; Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman; the Honorables Wellington and Wilma Webb; U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Susan Daggett; and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

To make a contribution to support the Paul Sandoval Pancreatic Cancer Research Scholarship Fund, visit