Spring 2018

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Alexander Pancoe: Climbing for a Cause

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Adventurer aims to complete Explorers Grand Slam to raise funds for brain tumor research at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

In summer 2005, between his freshman and sophomore years at Northwestern, Alexander Pancoe ’08 decided he could no longer tough it out after months of suffering from excruciating headaches. He went to Children’s Memorial Hospital (now the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago), where doctors discovered a tumor in the back of his brain. Tadanori Tomita ’80 GME, vice chair for pediatric neurological surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine, removed a benign tumor from Pancoe’s cerebellum. Since then, Pancoe has embarked on adventure pursuits to benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital. He aims to support brain tumor research by completing the Explorers Grand Slam, a rare feat that includes climbing the Seven Summits — the highest mountain on each of the seven continents — and cross-country skiing across the North and South poles. It’s been accomplished by just 58 people. In December, Pancoe climbed to the highest point in Antarctica, atop Vinson Massif, where a surprise storm left his mountaineering group stranded for days with limited supplies. He also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Aconcagua in South Africa and Mount Elbrus in Russia. Pancoe, who works in Chicago, plans to ski traverse the North Pole in April. With three summits to go — including Alaska’s Denali in 2018 and Mount Everest in 2019 — he’s raised more than $320,000 through his fundraising website. He’s nearly a third of the way to his goal of $1 million for the hospital that gave him “peace of mind.”