The Heart and Science of the Wender Group Grove
All members past, present and future
The first time Jacqueline Wender planted a memorial redwood tree, it was the late 1970s. A fellow student at Stanford had just died of cancer, and when a family friend suggested memorializing him with a redwood tree planted by Sempervirens Fund, a light went on.
“The idea that you are creating a lasting, long-living tribute to someone is tremendously comforting and satisfying,” says Jacqueline, who took the helm as president of Sempervirens Fund’s Board of Directors in July. “This is a memorial that’s full of life and hope.”
During a distinguished career in administration at Stanford and Santa Clara universities, Jacqueline led efforts to dedicate many more redwoods for friends and family members through Sempervirens Fund. In 2002, graduate students from her husband Dr. Paul Wender’s chemistry research group at Stanford approached Jacqueline for holiday gift ideas for their mentor. Redwood inspiration struck again.
One of the Wender Group’s landmark achievements has been the successful laboratory synthesis of taxol, a potent cancer-fighting compound found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree. Taxol’s success in treating breast and ovarian cancer was unprecedented, but an entire 75-year-old tree had to be sacrificed to treat a single patient. Taxol is now obtained through semi-synthesis using a compound obtained by pruning a different, and renewable, yew tree source.
“In my mind there was this immediate connection between Paul’s work and the preservation of trees,” says Jacqueline. When she suggested dedicating a Wender Group Grove, the students agreed it was the perfect tribute.
In June the research group hiked to the Wender Group Grove in Castle Rock State Park for a picnic under the stately redwoods. Speaking to his students, Dr. Wender put things in perspective. “3.8 billion years of chemical evolution on Earth has created this laboratory that we have a lot to learn from,” he said, gesturing up at the towering trees around him, “and it’s just nice to be part of it.”