A Family’s Gift Honors Their Grandparents

Rose and William Bendetson with their two young sons, Norris and Martin (circa 1925)
Rose and William Bendetson with their two young sons, Norris and Martin (circa 1925)

Just after the turn of the 20th century, in 1907, William Bendetson, then 19, boarded a ship in Europe via his native Poland, bound for New York City with $4 in his pocket. Nearly 120 years later, his legacy will live on forever through an endowment named in his and his wife’s honor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The William and Rose Bendetson Skin Cancer Research Endowment in the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery was made possible through a $250,000 gift from members of the Bendetson family. 

“Without our grandparents, none of us would be here,” says Peter Bendetson, M.D., a South Florida-based dermatologist specializing in skin cancer and skin cancer surgery. “We hope to reinforce their legacy of serving others by establishing this endowment.”

Get involved: Donate to the William and Rose Bendetson Skin Cancer Research Endowment

Immigrant Experience

After arriving in the United States, speaking no English, Bendetson’s grandfather earned $1 a day working six days a week in a New York City factory. Knowing that wouldn’t get him far, he subsequently took a boat to Boston and settled near relatives in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he started as a peddler with a horse-drawn cart selling goods door-to-door.

Eventually, he met and married Rose Stoleski, and they had two sons, Martin and Norris. They started a successful furniture business that would grow to 10 stores in five states. Rose was a woman ahead of her time, raising her two sons while working six days a week in the family business. It was her entrepreneurship that was initially responsible for the growth of the company. Sadly, she passed away at age 47 in 1941, before the birth of her grandchildren and 40 years before William’s passing.

Her two sons, Martin and Norris, eventually took over the family business and, over the next 60 years, kept their mother’s memory alive by instilling in her grandchildren the lessons and values of education, knowledge and giving back Rose had taught them.

Twofold Purpose

Peter Bendetson, M.D., Robert Kirsner, M.D.’88, Ph.D.’04
Peter Bendetson, M.D., and Robert Kirsner, M.D.’88, Ph.D.’04

The Bendetson family has long wanted to do two things: Find a way to honor William and Rose and help improve the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the world.

Over the years of attending dermatology conferences, Dr. Bendetson met Robert Kirsner, M.D.’88, Ph.D. ‘04, an endowed professor and department chair of the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the Miller School. The two forged a friendship and found a way to accomplish both goals together.

“Skin cancer is more common than all other cancers, affecting one in five Americans,” says Dr. Kirsner, whose Ph.D. is focused on cancer epidemiology; he is a member of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Finding new and innovative ways through research to diagnose and treat skin cancer is at the heart of the Bendetson family’s, the Frost Department and Sylvester’s vision. The endowed fund the family created honors their grandparent’s innovation and perseverance. William Bendetson came to America and, together with his wife, Rose, built a life, a family and a successful business through hard work and creativity. In their honor, we hope to use those same attributes to fight against skin cancer.”

A Gift for UM

Bendetson grandchildren Andrew, Richard, Grandfather William, Peter, and Robert
Bendetson grandchildren (left to right) Andrew and Richard, grandfather William, and grandchildren Peter and Robert. Not pictured: Rose Jane Sulman and Carol Shube.

The Bendetson family purposely selected the University of Miami to honor their grandparents. First, grandfather William spent his last 25 winters in Miami Beach, Fla., where he enjoyed its then-thriving Yiddish culture. When he suffered a massive heart attack in his early 70s, cardiologists at UHealth—the University of Miami Health System, saved his life and extended it another 25 years, to age 94. The quarter-century of time allowed William’s grandchildren to enjoy and build upon their special relationship with their grandfather.

Moreover, William observed in Miami the common element between his story of emigrating from a repressive government and that of many immigrants in South Florida who escaped similar regimes for a better life. Millions in South Florida shared the same obstacles William encountered – coming to a new country unfamiliar with the language and without ample funds. As Rose and William did, these new South Floridians sacrificed and worked relentlessly to ensure the next generation enjoyed a better life.

The Bendetson family’s endowment of skin cancer research at the Miller School is a recognition of this common spirit. This is the story of two incredible grandparents whose sacrifices, vision and legacy have been unimaginable and their grandchildren who choose to honor them. Nearly 120 years after William Bendetson’s arrival in America, their grandchildren have chosen to honor and celebrate their legacy by establishing The William and Rose Bendetson Skin Cancer Research Endowment.

The long-lasting legacy of Rose and William Bendetson is best reflected in their six living grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-grandchildren.

Tags: Dr. Philip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, Dr. Robert Kirsner, philanthropy, skin cancer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center