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‘Cancer moves fast and we need to move faster’: Huntsman Cancer Institute receives $30 million donation

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SALT LAKE CITY — As Karen Huntsman, wife of the late Jon M. Huntsman Sr., was recently going through her husband's old belongings, she found a piece of paper he had written on in 1995 — the year the Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded.

It read: “The sole purpose of HCI is to serve the patient."

In honor of that vision, the Huntsman Foundation that she chairs announced Friday morning a $30 million donation to the cancer institute that bears the name of the industrialist/philanthropist who died almost a year ago.

The gift will fund the institute's recently announced Kathryn F. Kirk Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care and Women's Cancers building. The center, first announced in September, is estimated to cost $129 million and is the fifth phase in the institute's expansion plan.

Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle said the new project is centered around Jon Huntsman Sr.'s legacy.

“It's about continuing our founder's mission and advancing our mission in a really significant way,” Beckerle said.

The $30 million builds on $40 million contributed last fall by Huntsman Cancer Foundation, the Spencer and Kristen Kirt family, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doTerra International and other anonymous donors.

The new money will allow the building's size to increase from its originally proposed 100,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet and will double the number of floors from four to eight.

As for the remaining $59 million needed to complete the project, $19 million will come from supplemental funds available to the institute and $40 million from a proposed revenue bond, which is pending approval by the Utah Legislature.

The announcement was made by Peter Huntsman, chairman and CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and CEO of the Huntsman Foundation, who was joined by University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins, Beckerle, and his mother Karen Huntsman.

At Friday's news conference, Peter Huntsman said there are two things more important than the money and the added space — hope and commitment.

"We're not just here for the next year or two, we're here for hopefully the next generation or two," he said.

While not all the programs the new building will offer are finalized, Beckerle said there are a few definite services that will expand into the center, including programs dealing with breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers.

"We're going to have a real renewed focus on women's cancers and we're going to expand our women's cancers program, but at the same time, we're going to have a comprehensive set of offerings in that building," Beckerle said.

The new building will be located between the children's center and the cancer hospital.

"It's perfect because it is going to be fully integrated with the rest of the cancer hospital and with the whole cancer campus," Beckerle said.

Beckerle said Jon Huntsman Sr. had a saying: "Cancer moves fast and we need to move faster."

Advancing his vision is what the expansion is all about, she noted.

"I just know he would be so so pleased that it's happening," Beckerle said, adding that Jon Huntsman Sr. was involved in the planning of this project before his death Feb. 2, 2018.

The building is still in the planning stages but construction is scheduled to begin in December with an expected opening in September 2022.

Susan Sheehan, Huntsman Cancer Foundation president, said in a news release that “the Huntsman family has once again extended immense generosity and kindness to help our community in an area of critical need."

"As it has done since HCI’s founding in 1993, the family is looking toward the future and anticipating ways they can offer hope and optimism in the face of this dreaded disease,” she said.