Jamee Gregory Rolls Up Her Sleeves to Fight Cancer

Monday, September 18, 2017

Gal about town Jamee Gregory is a busy lady. As a woman-about-town, writer and occasional tennis player, Gregory does it all (and look good while she doing it). Jamee was recently named the 36th President of the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the most prominent positions in New York philanthropy. The job demands vim, vigor and a well-stocked Rolodex, and Mrs. G. is more than up to the task. AVENUE recently sat down with her for all the inside MSK gossip.


Tell me about your interest in philanthropy.

I’ve always been inspired by the legacy of my family. They taught me that when you help others, it makes you feel happy. Throughout my years in New York, I’ve been on the boards of several different charities. I try to get involved with the things I care about. I love to garden, so I was on the board of the New York Botanical Garden. Every day I walk in Central Park, so I’m on the Central Park Conservancy. I’m fascinated by science, and that’s why I’ve been involved with Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York Presbyterian and Cornell Weill.


What was the first cause that you really felt a connection with?

When I first came to New York, I was drawn to the Museum of the City of New York because they had my grandfather’s collection of antique toys. He made all the premiums for cereal and Cracker Jacks, so he was fascinated by the mechanisms in antique toys. He had a terrific collection, which he brought to the Museum of the City of New York. So when I moved to New York from Chicago, that was the first institution I was involved with.


How does if feel to be in charge of what some people call the pinnacle of New York philanthropy?

It’s challenging, and it’s exciting. I’m the society’s 36th president, so I want to be sure that I don’t drop the ball. I’m doing my very best to see that all the great programs that the other 36 chairmen have instituted are carried on, and can be fulfilled and done well. It’s daunting. There’s a lot of responsibility, but the feedback, and the pleasure I’m having is outweighing my fear. I’ve always run events and done things, but I’ve never been an executive before. It’s a different set of challenges, and I’m learning on the job.


What have you already learned?

I’ve reinforced my feeling that one of the most important parts is to be a good listener, and that if you listen and pay attention to people’s concerns you’ll be rewarded. Even if you don’t know everything, you can always listen to what people have to say, and gain new insight. I think I’ve also learned the value of having meetings, and getting a lot of peoples’ input. I’m also learning how important it is to pick the right people so that you can delegate tasks to people that you trust.


What else does a good president need?

I have a terrific board of really amazing women. One of the great things about Sloan Kettering is the amazing women who involve themselves with this charity. They’re not just ladies who lunch, they come here and they work. They roll up their sleeves and do everything from the flower program to patient care committees to research on grants. They come up with amazing ideas, and there’s something for everyone to do because we all have different talents.

Planning exciting events is also an important….for people who want to do something in New York, they’re great introductions to what we do. For example, we’re involved with the opening night of TEFAF Fall, which is going to be on October 27th at the Park Avenue Armory. It promises to be a great marriage between not only the top dealers of Europe and America, but the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering as well. It’s a great opportunity for us, and for them, because we bring a lot of very interested people to their event. They bring all these amazing flowers from Holland. They have vetted all the dealers, and they’ve carpeted the Armory. You come in and it’s so transformed, it’s really exciting. That’s one of our first events, and I’m really looking forward to it.


Do you think that art and cancer research have anything in common?

Oh, absolutely! We’ve found that when people come to the hospital, and they’re anxious and nervous, it helps to be able to look at the walls and see incredible art. The society has always had an art program, and we’ve always purchased or been given artworks. It makes a huge difference when you’re sitting and waiting for something to have something beautiful to look at. It’s very soothing and spiritual, and it helps everyone, including the doctors.

Is this the first time you’ve done the partnership?

Last year was the first time. So it’s a great compliment to us that they’ve come back to us this year. We’d love to keep the relationship going. We will also be doing their spring contemporary art fair in April. If you can find the right event, the right cause, you can get a lot of wonderful people together.

What’s your vision for the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering?

Well, I’m not ripping away from the past. My predecessors have been very efficient and successful. I don’t see my job as a breach or a dramatic change. Instead, I see it as a chance to reenergize. I want to be inclusive, and I want more and more people to know about what we’re doing. That’s why an event like the one with TEFAF is wonderful.

I want to do more events. We’ve already had several events, and we get more attendees with each one. I think that although we reach a small part of people in the city, there’s a very wide potential audience out there, because people everywhere know somebody who has suffered from some type of a cancer. It’s a very powerful motivator, knowing that contributing to an event can help fund new cutting-edge research.


What else would you like the readers of AVENUE to know?

We welcome your presence, particularly at the TEFAF opening night party on October 27!

And that’s a wrap! Thanks for answering our questions, Jamee! For information on that TEFAF party and how to get tickets, click here.


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