The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB recently unveiled an artwork installation in the Wallace Tumor Institute lobby, honoring the O’Neal family and their significant impact on the Cancer Center that will last for generations to come.

Full artwork shot resizedWilliam and Kelly Colburn teamed up to realistically portray the O’Neal family’s symbolic magnolia tree, which was constructed using steel materials from O’Neal Steel itself. The display perfectly commemorates the transformative naming gift that the family has bestowed upon the Cancer Center and the parallel philosophy in which O’Neal Industries and our scientists and physicians operate.

The carefully crafted magnolia tree is much more than a breathtaking piece of artwork – it symbolizes the fortitude and spirit of the O’Neal family. In front of the original O’Neal Steel office building sat a magnificent magnolia tree that grew and developed alongside the company. In 1975, the tree interfered with plans to build a road that would facilitate steel transportation. Emmet O’Neal, former chairman of O’Neal Steel, instructed that the magnolia tree be moved across the street next to the new corporate office building, but experts said that it couldn’t be done; the tree wouldn’t survive. However, Emmet held firm in his decision to move the tree and preserve its life, and for that reason, the tree is still standing and thriving to this day.

Kirkman O’Neal had a saying: “Difficultas ne deterrem,” meaning difficulties do not deter us. The scientists and physicians that work every day at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center carry on this spirit of perseverance and commitment as they seek to improve outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients. The magnolia tree in the Cancer Center lobby is a daily reminder of this mindset.  

Ribbon cutting before and after