On a crisp, bright day, a “notable blow was struck against cancer” when UT Health San Antonio President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, announced that the Mays Family Foundation is increasing its legacy gift supporting the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center to $30 million.
As an enthusiastic crowd of faculty, staff, public officials and dignitaries gathered Jan. 30 at the cancer center, Dr. Henrich said that in recognition and appreciation of the Mays’ generosity, the UT System Board of Regents authorized naming the cancer center as the Mays Cancer Center.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era for our cancer center, an inflection point in its storied history, a history the Mays family knows very well,” Dr. Henrich said in thanking the family led by Lowry and Peggy Mays, and the foundation.
Noting that the Mays Family Foundation has given more than $50 million in philanthropic support in the fight against cancer, Dr. Henrich said that it is “ entirely fitting that our National Cancer Institute-affiliated Cancer Center, located right here in San Antonio, bear in perpetuity, the name of one of our community’s most iconic families.”
The combined contributions from the Mays Family Foundation will provide a substantial endowment to perpetually support the director of the Mays Cancer Center and to establish up to 10 new permanent distinguished endowed chairs to support key faculty recruitment and retention. The gift also will establish the Mays Cancer Center Excellence Endowment to support top priorities for future success and long-term sustainability for generations to come.
“Cancer has been aptly called the ‘emperor of all maladies,’ the disease which is the most difficult to diagnose accurately and treat with precision.” Dr. Henrich said. “Defeating its complexity requires leading edge science, teamwork, perseverance and courage, each in equal measure. It might be asked who benefits most from this exceptional Mays Family gift … Certainly the cancer center, UT Health San Antonio and Texas all will see positives.
“But let’s not forget that the overwhelming major beneficiaries of this gift are patients who will seek and receive life-saving care here,” he added.
UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven spoke about the importance of philanthropy and generous donors such as the Mays family, “whose remarkable gift will save countless lives.” He added that the Mays’ “phenomenal vote of confidence in UT Health San Antonio” will achieve great results.
Both McRaven and Dr. Henrich noted jokingly that Lowry Mays is a Texas A&M University graduate. Dr. Henrich said Mays “is and will forever be my favorite Aggie.” McRaven said that in his three years as chancellor of the UT System, “I’ve never said Gig ‘em Aggies until today.”
Representing the family and foundation at the event, Kathryn Mays Johnson said both her parents and herself were cancer survivors. She spoke about the importance of finding treatment and care close to home, and said her family was “humbled to be part of this team” that will “bring to our community a new level of cancer care.”
Cancer center director Ruben A. Mesa, M.D., FACP, praised the developing affiliation between UT Health San Antonio and UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and the strengths of the combined institutions.
“We celebrate the new partnership between the excellence of the MD Anderson Cancer Center for patient-centered, cutting edge cancer care; the tremendous cancer researchers, physicians, nurses, and staff of the Mays Cancer Center; and of the Mays family that has partnered with us in developing San Antonio’s cancer center of the future,” Dr. Mesa said.
Other speakers at the ceremony included UT System Regent James C. “Rad” Weaver, state Sen. Jose Menendez and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. All lauded the Mays family and foundation for making tremendous resources available for the benefit of lives and communities across Texas and especially in San Antonio.
Peggy and Lowry Mays and their family have been key supporters of the cancer center since the early years. Peggy Mays, a former member of the board of governors of the cancer center, founded the cancer center’s highly successful annual fund program – the Cabinet – in 1996. The Cabinet has raised nearly $8 million over the program’s 21-year history. Cabinet gifts provide essential support for innovative cancer research, state-of-the-art equipment and critical cancer education and patient care programs.
Kathryn Mays Johnson, president of the Mays Family Foundation, is a member of the Board of Governors of the Cancer Center and is a past president of the SA Cancer Council (formerly known as the Cancer Center Council). Over the past 33 years, the council has supported the Cancer Center through fundraising, volunteer services, community outreach and education, and patient assistance. The SA Cancer Council has raised more than $4.5 million for these purposes.
“As longtime supporters and advocates of our Cancer Center in San Antonio, we are pleased to provide significant financial support at this critical time. We are inspired by the cancer center’s exceptional leadership, mission, vision and goals, and we are especially pleased that our investment will support the Mays Cancer Center as we continue to develop the affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Center,” said Lowry Mays said in a prepared statement. “We are very proud that our family name will forever be associated with this cancer center, which serves millions of people in San Antonio and across South Texas.”