By Matt Windsor • Illustrations by Ernie Eldredge
In June 2012, five years after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lessley Hynson threw a party. The guest list included doctors, nurses, CT scan technicians—“anybody who had anything to do with my care,” says Hynson. She had beat heavy odds to make it so far; only 5 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer reach the five-year milestone.
“I’m aware of how few people survive, and it still surprises me all the time that I made it,” says Hynson, who credits UAB surgeon Martin Heslin, M.D.— and an experimental vaccine treatment she received at the Cancer Center— for her success. “I’m very blessed.” Hynson is already planning her 10-year bash, but she is also gearing up for an even bigger party “when the cancer cure is here.”
Hynson is doing all she can to hasten that day. “UAB has given me life,” she says. “The least I can do is give as much of my life and abilities back as I can.” In the past five years, she has helped raise around $150,000 for UAB pancreatic cancer research through the Robert E. Reed Gastrointestinal Oncology Research Foundation. “My goal is to raise enough money to fund one researcher every year,” Hynson says. She has had the chance to meet many scientists working at the Cancer Center, and their dedication “is overwhelming,” she says. “They are committed to finding a cure for cancer, and I think it is going to happen at UAB.”
Passion and Action“Whatever you are passionate about, whatever you think needs to be accomplished in Birmingham—whether that is curing a disease, breathing new life into a neglected neighborhood, giving a teen a chance at a better future, or inspiring new creative breakthroughs—it can be done here at UAB,” says Shirley Salloway Kahn, Ph.D., UAB vice president for development, alumni, and external relations.
Those big dreams are the inspiration for The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything, the university’s largest fundraising campaign to date, with an ambitious goal of $1 billion through 2018. Accomplishing great things requires a blend of passion and strong partnerships, says UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D. “The scope and impact of this campaign will extend far beyond our campus,” Watts explains. “A successful fundraising effort of this scale will reap vastly improved health care, educational opportunities, and quality of life, as well as robust economic development, throughout our community, state, nation, and beyond. This will be a campaign with a truly global impact.”
UAB’s first philanthropic campaign, which took place from 1999 to 2003, set a goal of $350 million, at the time the largest ever undertaken by an Alabama university, and ended up raising more than $388 million. The new campaign is similarly ambitious.
“We’re throwing the ball long,” says Johnny Johns, co-chair of The Campaign for UAB and CEO and president of Protective Life Corporation. “I think that by asking for a billion dollars, we’re sending a strong signal that this is very important. I see the impact UAB has every day on the lives of people in this community, whether it is the world-class care in the medical center or the educational opportunities for students or the cultural amenities for the entire community. And we are only in the early stages of the UAB story. Just imagine what a billion dollars will do for UAB and for this community. What could that next chapter look like?”
“It will truly be transformative,” says Theresa Bruno, president of THB Inc., board president of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, and a co-chair of The Campaign for UAB. “A billion dollars is a big number, but I love the challenge,” Bruno says. “This is an amazing town, and it wants to do great things. This campaign will help us do those things.”
The first time he heard the campaign’s billion-dollar goal, “I thought somebody was crazy,” says Mike Warren, president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama and the third co-chair of The Campaign for UAB. “Then I thought a second time and said, ‘Why not a billion dollars? Why should UAB be anything other than the top of the heap?’ The dollars given to UAB multiply throughout our economy. A gift to UAB is actually an investment in our future.”
Case Studies in ChangeSee how gifts to UAB are accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease, funding the dreams of students, and fueling the arts: