Durable Steele

A family-oriented foundation makes its latest, largest gift to advance pediatric autoimmune disease research.

Winter 2023
Steele Foundation CEO Marianne Cracchiolo Mago

Steele Foundation CEO Marianne Cracchiolo Mago with University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins at the announcement of a $10 million gift to benefit pediatric health care, including $2 million for the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies.

/ Chris Richards photo

Fifteen years ago, Marianne Cracchiolo Mago ’93, then a comedy executive at Warner Bros. Television, opted for a career pivot. She departed Hollywood, where she’d started as the personal assistant to late-night host Jon Stewart, and headed for Phoenix, the less-glitzy city where she was raised. 

Her reasons for the change were far too sincere for a punchline. 

A few years earlier, her father, Daniel Cracchiolo ’52 — a self-described “dirty shirt” attorney who co-founded the firm Burch & Cracchiolo in 1970 and whose guiding axiom was “give a damn” — had made a request. Now, his TV-exec daughter had said, “Yes.” 

Since 1985, Dan Cracchiolo had served as executive director of the Steele Foundation, a charity honoring his late friend Horace Steele, who’d amassed a fortune in oil and trucking alongside his wife, Ethel, after serving in England during World War I. The foundation had already made progress in its goal to aid Arizona’s underserved children. 

The moment had arrived for a passing of the baton. And with Cracchiolo Mago at the helm, Steele has been nothing if not durable. 

After Dan Cracchiolo died at age 93 in June 2022, the foundation made its largest-ever gift, contributing $10 million to the University of Arizona’s Steele Children’s Research Center, where Fayez Ghishan, Cracchiolo’s longtime friend and pen pal, is director. 

The money, to be disbursed over the next five years, will create the Daniel Cracchiolo Institute for Pediatric Autoimmune Disease Research, aiding in the fight against diseases such as lupus, juvenile arthritis and Type 1 diabetes. It includes the Daniel Cracchiolo Endowed Chair for Pediatric Autoimmune Disease Research and will provide financial support for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, as well as the Pamela Grant Endowed Professorship and the Fayez K. Ghishan, MD Endowed Professorship. Ghishan, in addition to directing the Steele Center, is head of the Department of Pediatrics at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, of which the Steele Center is an offshoot.

Of the gift, $2 million will go to the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies, or CAMI, to be located at the Phoenix Bioscience Core. The Steele Foundation gift is the first private investment in CAMI, which will serve as a hub to advance knowledge of the immunology of autoimmune conditions, inflammation, cancers and infectious diseases. Through CAMI, researchers will develop new strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases. 

“I am so moved and grateful to honor my father, Dan, through this commitment, as well as pay tribute to his close friend, Dr. Fayez Ghishan,” Cracchiolo Mago says. “The Daniel Cracchiolo Institute will help advance lifesaving research while also providing vital support for families through in-person clinical care.” 

The Steele Center hasn’t always borne the Steele name. But since 1992, when the foundation offered the then-Children’s Research Center a $2 million naming gift, it has been Steele’s most-awarded grantee.

“When I first arrived in 1995 and met Dan, I knew that the Steele Children’s Research Center was destined to be successful,” Ghishan says. “His vision for science was futuristic, and he believed that only through scientific discovery can we improve the lives of children. I am forever grateful for his friendship, generosity and support. 

“Marianne’s leadership truly demonstrates that she is her father’s daughter.”

Watch a video from the gift announcement

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