Office of Institutional Advancement

Surprising Ties Between the Titantic & Hematology Research

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Mrs. Charlotte Drake Cardeza

On the infamous day of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean. Aboard the ship in one of the most expensive suites (featuring two bedrooms, a sitting room and a private 50-foot promenade) were Charlotte Drake Martinez Cardeza and her 35-year-old son, Thomas. Charlotte, Thomas and their two staff members all survived the night by escaping on one of the Titanic’s too-few lifeboats.

Charlotte, the daughter of a British textile manufacturer and divorced widow of a successful lawyer, was a prominent Philadelphia socialite with a colorful personality. She lived lavishly and was a frequent traveler, art buyer, yachtswoman and big game hunter. Prior to boarding the Titanic, she and Thomas were on safari in Africa, then hunting game on Thomas’s reserve in Hungary. The Cardezas boarded the Titanic with 14 steamer trunks, three crates of baggage and four suitcases. After the ship sank, Charlotte’s loss of property claim was the largest of any passenger, valued at $177,352 (a value of more than $4 million today). Her staggering loss of personal possessions included a seven-carat diamond valued at $20,000 in 1912.

Returning to her home in Germantown, Pa., Charlotte was known to be generous — in her will she even provided funds for the future funeral arrangements of her servants and their relatives. Her son inherited her generous spirit. Years later, Thomas’s wife, Mary Racine, was treated by a Jefferson physician for blood disease. This sparked a lasting relationship between the Cardezas and Jefferson, establishing a research foundation. Upon Thomas’s death in 1952, the family fortune of $5.5 million went to the Department of Medicine in Sidney Kimmel Medical College (formerly Jefferson Medical College) to establish the Charlotte Drake Cardeza Foundation for Hematologic Research.

More recently, the Cardeza Foundation decided to incorporate its funds into the endowment of Thomas Jefferson University. The Foundation continues to support faculty salaries, research programs, education programs and administration. “The Cardeza investment has allowed the department to thrive,” says Paul Bray, MD, director of the Foundation. “General hematology is not a high-paying discipline, so the Cardeza trust allows us to provide clinical care to patients at Jefferson and continue our research enterprise.”

The Foundation has a strong history in transfusion medicine, and currently the faculty has NIH grants that support platelet biology, including research on bleeding and clotting. The Cardeza faculty also focuses on genetic work, trying to identify genes that dictate a patient’s risk for bleeding and clotting.

“The Cardezas’ generosity helps all major missions of the institution — research, education and clinical care,” says Bray. “Plus, what other academic enterprise can link its mission to an iceberg in the North Atlantic?”

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Charlotte and son Thomas Cardeza aboard their steam yacht Eleanor, ca. 1900

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Mrs. Cardeza on African safari, ca. 1911