KU Cancer Center receives $4 million in gifts to aid in NCI designation

New gifts totaling $4 million will enhance the KU Cancer Center’s efforts to achieve designation as a National Cancer Institute center. The gifts bring the total raised for the initiative to $50 million since 2009.

Tom and Teresa Walsh, of Leawood, and the Walsh Family Foundation are donating $2 million. Two Kansas City foundations — the Victor E. and Caroline E. Schutte Foundation and the John W. and Effie E. Speas Memorial Trust — contributed another $2 million.

The gifts to KU Endowment were announced at an event in which area leaders voiced their support for the quest to achieve designation from the National Cancer Institute, with six months remaining before the application deadline. Speakers included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Kansas Board of Regents Chair Gary Sherrer and Cancer Funding Partners Co-chair Drue Jennings.

“Our vision of creating a nationally recognized cancer center in Kansas City is closer to reality today,” said Roy Jensen, director of the cancer center. “Thanks to the support of these and many other donors, we are conducting breakthrough research and providing some of the best cancer treatment in the nation.”

The gifts from Tom and Teresa Walsh and their family’s foundation will support patient care and faculty recruitment, which is the top fundraising priority in the quest for NCI designation. The Schutte Foundation and the Speas Memorial Trust gifts will establish a chair in blood-related cancers.

Teresa Walsh co-founded Silpada Designs, which Avon purchased in 2010. Her husband, Tom, is an entrepreneur who has a degree in business from KU.

“Our ultimate goal is to help the cancer center achieve NCI designation, not only for cancer patients, but for our entire city,” said Tom Walsh. “It will raise the level of care in Kansas City, boost our economy and enhance people’s lives. It’s one of those special causes that you come across once in a lifetime.”

The gifts from the Schutte Foundation and the Speas Memorial Trust will create the Schutte/Speas Chair in Hematological Malignancies. The announcement was made by their trustees: David Frantze and Bank of America, co-trustees of the Schutte Foundation, and Bank of America, trustee of the Speas Foundation. Bank of America was represented by its Kansas City market president, Spencer Heddens.

“As past chair of the national board of directors of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I am passionate about providing top notch treatment and achieving cures for people with blood cancers,” said Frantze, a partner at Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP in Kansas City. “This gift will fund the recruitment of an eminent researcher who will build on the national reputation KU already has in this area, particularly in cancer drug development.”

The late Victor and Caroline Schutte worked in the family business, Schutte Lumber Co., founded in 1889. In her will, Caroline Schutte established a foundation to support charitable causes focused in Kansas City. She was particularly concerned about health care.

The John W. Speas and Effie E. Speas Memorial Trust was established in 1943 by the late Victor E. Speas to honor his parents. The trust’s directive was to support and promote quality educational, cultural, human services and health care programming in metropolitan Kansas City.

Officials aim to raise an additional $11 million before September, the deadline for NCI application.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

The KU Cancer Center is a partnership that includes cancer research and health care professionals associated with the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., KU’s Lawrence campus, KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita and members of the Midwest Cancer Alliance Partners Advisory Board and Clinical Trials Network.

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