Ronald Filler, LAS’ 70. 

Urbana, Ill. – When Ron Filler (LAS ’70) learned about the groundbreaking research conducted at the Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL), he knew he needed to bring his “Filler Effect” – the spirit of giving and mentorship – to support cancer research education.

“My Dad died of lung cancer, and unfortunately, I’ve lost many members of my family this way,” Filler said. “I think very highly of the cancer research at the Cancer Center at Illinois. And I wanted to help support students who want to help save someone else, even if it’s not a cure, but can help alleviate someone’s pain or end suffering, then it’s worth it.”


Through providing funding for cancer research, Filler is honoring his father, the man who inspired his kindness and generosity. Filler grew up in a small country town in northwest Tennessee. Solidly middle-class, there was not a lot of extra to give out, but what the Filler’s could give went to those in need.

“My Dad would literally help anyone who didn’t have as much as we had. Not that we had a lot, but he always found a way,” Filler said. “My Dad helped to finance my next-door neighbors’ college and medical school education – and he came back to our small town to become the OB/GYN. He said he never forgot what my parents did for him. The spirit of helping and giving came from my Dad, and I’ve always taken that belief that if you have the opportunity you should try and give back.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Filler is now providing support for college student and aspiring scientist, Ege Onal, an undergraduate in bioengineering and student in the CCIL’s Cancer Scholars Program.

Ege Onal Image

Ege Onal, scholarship recipient.

“It truly means a lot to receive the Filler Scholarship, and I got emotional when I learned that I had received it. Having role models, like Mr. Filler, strengthens my hope for the future and motivates me to one day give back to students and the University,” Onal said. “It is my utmost honor to receive this award.”

Onal conducts cancer research in the lab of Brian Cunningham, CCIL Research Program Leader and professor of electrical and computer engineering. Their research group has been on the forefront of cancer diagnostic technology, and Onal contributed to a project that can quickly detect cancer biomarkers with a small sample of blood.

“Cancer is a disease that has been around since ancient times, and it remains one of humanity’s biggest challenges. One day, I believe we will alleviate all known cancer, but it can’t be achieved singlehandedly; it is something we can accomplish hand-in-hand,” Onal said. “For the future, my goal is to pursue cancer research by standing on the shoulders of many giants that came before me. I believe that one day we will beat cancer together.”

The Ronald H. Filler Scholarship has supported over 140 Illinois students, with plans to grow that number significantly.

“I hope that someday we can get rid of this horrible disease, and more importantly, we can help others along the way. Cancer research is so important,” Filler said.



– Written by Jordan Goebig, Communications Coordinator 

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