For unique contributions toward the preservation of vision and the restoration of sight.
Dr. Stein is renowned in two fields: as the founder and former chairman of the Board of Directors of MCA, Inc.—a career which alone would have fulfilled the ambitions of most men—and as a humanitarian dedicated to the preservation of one of our most precious possessions, the gift of sight.
A former practicing ophthalmologist, Dr. Stein in 1960, inspired by his wife, Doris, brought his business acumen and a modern dynamic approach to the creation of a new health organization, Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc. (RPB). At that time, the major bottlenecks stifling advances in ocular research were lack of adequate laboratory facilities, lack of research manpower, and lack of both public and private financial support.
Thanks to Dr. Stein, many of these bottlenecks have been broken.
Today there is within the National Institutes of Health a National Eye Institute with a budget of over 40 million dollars. Four RPB-sponsored major eye research centers, associated with medical schools, have tripled the available eye research laboratory space in this country in the last ten years, and two more such centers are under construction. The world-famous Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and RPB research grants to 50 medical schools have helped to generate a whole new era of accomplishment in the saving of sight.
As a result of all this intensified research and progress, certain eye diseases can now be prevented and treated, thus saving the vision of many people who would otherwise become blind.
For the unique qualities of humanity, philanthropy, and sophisticated zeal that Jules Stein has brought to the effort to prevent blindness, preserve vision, and restore sight, this Albert Lasker Public Service Award is given.
Acceptance remarks, 1975 Lasker Awards Ceremony
I am deeply honored to be a recipient of the Albert Lasker Public Service Award. It is a great privilege to share the dais with such eminent contributors to biomedical science as are present here today. It is especially gratifying for me to be recognized for contributions related to ophthalmology, a profession which practice I left many years ago. My last scientific paper—on telescopic spectacles and magnifiers—was published in 1924. In the same year, I founded MCA, Inc. (the Music Corporation of America), now the world’s largest entertainment complex, with which I am still associated and by good fortune its largest stockholder. My efforts from that time until 1960 were devoted almost entirely to MCA, first as president for 22 years, and then as chairman for 26 years.
If I have been successful in exerting some influence on the progress of eye research over these past 15 years, it is because my experience in the world of business has equipped me to deal with the broader problems of research support that are not within the province of most scientists and physicians. I hope that my presence here, and the Award that has been given me, will affirm the partnership, the essential link, which must exist between the practicing scientific community and those of us who feel an obligation to make your work possible.
The country owes much to the scientific explorers, to the pioneers in the development of medical knowledge. But it owes much also to the Mary Laskers—to those who see the dreadful results of disease and are not satisfied with the speed of medical progress; who can define and cope with the enormous practical barriers that stand in the way of effective research. The marvelous advances now taking place in medical science are the result of opportunities created by people who have understood and mastered the logistics of research. By that I mean they have marshaled the money, the manpower, the equipment and the physical facilities that are essential for a massive attack on disease. Mary and Albert Lasker reached to the core of those problems before most others, and they worked at them with greater perseverance and ultimate effect than anyone had ever done before. The result was the creation of the National Institutes of Health and the greatest explosion of health research in the history of civilization.
No scientist could have done that, no politician, nor any isolated act of philanthropy. It required a certain genius that involved all of these, and more. It required a voice to speak for the public whose interests were at stake. And most of all it required a catalyst—a mechanism for bringing together all the diverse interests and resources necessary to get the job done.
It is about this catalytic factor that I wish to speak, and how we have made it work in revolutionizing the field of eye research through the medium of a unique public foundation called Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc. (RPB). When I began to reassert my interest in ophthalmology in 1960—influenced by my good friend, the late Robert E. McCormick—I am sure that many people expected my role to be simply that of a contributor to established programs. I had examined these programs, and I learned that some 800 voluntary and governmental agencies were doing essential work in this field. But their function was almost exclusively to provide services for those already blind. It was costing the nation 2.5 billion dollars a year just in terms of those identified as legally blind. So serious a liability is blindness that it remains today the only physical disability for which the federal government allows a special exemption on the income tax.
My wife, Doris, had continuously urged me to become actively involved in the fight against blindness. The fact that I already was a busy man did not impress her. She argued that I had the ability, the experience and the resources to do something for humanity that was not being done. Together we visited the Lighthouse, a splendid organization here in New York City that was doing much for the blind. Doris turned to me and said, “You must do something.” There was little I could do for these people that wasn’t being done. They were already blind. “But,” I began to ask, “Why are they blind?” and it was then that the real problem became evident.