Marlene Malek, MU alumna and trustee, awarded Lincoln Medal

Marlene Malek, MU alumna and trustee, awarded Lincoln Medal

Photo courtesy of Stephen Voss

Marlene Malek — a devoted Marymount University alumna, long-time member of its Board of Trustees and a dedicated supporter of the institution — received the prestigious Lincoln Medal at the Ford’s Theatre’s annual gala on June 11. It’s awarded by the Ford’s Theatre Society to individuals who exhibit an impressive body of professional work, accomplishments or personal attributes that exemplify the legacy and character of President Abraham Lincoln.

Malek was honored alongside the EGOT-winning actress Rita Moreno, who is widely renowned throughout the film and theatre communities and was the first Latin-American woman to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her breakout role as Anita in 1961’s West Side Story.

The Ford’s Theatre Society recognized Malek as a community activist, health care advocate and patron of the arts. She has been a stalwart sponsor of the Lincoln Medal herself for over 20 years, and is a member of Ford’s Theatre’s Board of Trustees. Her legacy at Marymount is significant, as she continues to serve as Vice Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. She graduated in 1979 with a Nursing degree, and pursued a lifelong ambition in cancer research.

“This is her legacy,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University. “She wants to leave this world a better place, so she has dedicated herself in a warrior-like fashion to find a cure for cancer.”

Marlene Malek with her family
Photo courtesy of Norwood Photography


Currently, Malek serves as Vice Chair of Friends of Cancer Research, advocating for policies that make it easier for patients to receive treatments safely and quickly. In addition, she received a six-year Presidential appointment to the National Cancer Advisory Board, part of the National Institutes of Health. 

She also serves on the Board of Duke University’s Cancer Institute and is a member of several other cancer research groups. In both 2019 and 2021, Washingtonian named her one of ‘Washington’s Most Powerful Women,’ recognizing her work supporting cancer research.

“She loves this country with a passion like few people that I’ve ever known,” said former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. “Her generosity towards so many causes shows a tremendous amount of heart. But it all emanates out of a deep love for America, and it’s a country that is better every day for the influence of Marlene Malek.”

Malek and her late husband Frederic received countless accolades throughout their professional careers for their dedicated service and contributions. These include the Corporate Citizens of the Year Award from the Wilson Center, and Marymount’s highest honor, the Majella Berg Medal, presented to her at the 2011 commencement ceremonies. The Malek School of Nursing Professions and Malek Plaza outside of Caruthers Hall were named after Marlene and Frederic in recognition of their numerous years of service and commitment to the University.

“I accept this honor with one request,” Malek told guests of the gala during her speech. “I want you to think about your legacy, what you want to send to others. And then, don’t just wait to leave it behind — go out and actively make it possible.”

The Lincoln Medal has been awarded to many notable individuals over its 35-year history — past recipients include U.S. presidents, first ladies, judges, actors, directors and many others. For more information on the Lincoln Medal or about the Ford’s Theatre gala, click here.