Topeka Is that Bill Snyder on the Kansas University sideline?
Snyder, the revered former Kansas State University football coach, was among state leaders who appeared at a news conference Tuesday to kick off fundraising for a new cancer center at KU.
"Is a potential cure for cancer not important for everyone?" Snyder said.
Snyder and others, including U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., launched the Kansas Masonic Foundation's Partnership for Life Campaign - an initiative that aims to raise more than $9 million for the cancer center project in Kansas City, Kan.
KU wants to develop a federally designated comprehensive cancer center within a decade. The designation would open the center to cutting-edge cancer treatments and increased funding. It's a goal that organizers say will require about $331 million in new investment over the next decade.
The Kansas Masonic Foundation has pledged $15 million to the effort and raised $5.9 million so far. Officials hope to raise the remainder with the campaign launched Tuesday.
It is by far the foundation's biggest endeavor, said Jeffrey Sowder, the foundation's president.
The foundation has supported the cancer program in the past - donating more than $5 million between 1974 and 2003. But those contributions took place over three decades. The new campaign aims to raise the money over three years.
"It will be a challenge," Sowder said. "There is no doubt about that."
The foundation has hired a new development director to assist with the initiative and designated 15 community leaders throughout the state to identify and work with potential donors.
"It's not just KU people," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "This is an initiative of the entire state of Kansas. : I think people realize that we really do have a chance to attack cancer in a way we've never had before."
KU will take steps toward its goal. Before meeting comprehensive cancer center status, the center wants to become a federally designated cancer center over the next three years. Typically, designated cancer centers conduct only lab research and don't provide patient care.
KU needs about $72 million in new investment over the next three years to become a designated cancer center.
The entire initiative requires new research funding, an increased number of researchers and expanded facility space.
The next step: recruiting a deputy director.
Kansas Cancer Center Director Roy Jensen said Tuesday that the position is a top priority and he hopes to have it filled by early fall.
The fundraising campaign's honorary chairs are: Roberts; former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole; Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Ross Beach, a business leader and philanthropist; Harry Craig Jr., chairman of Martin Tractor Co. of Topeka; John Dicus, chairman and CEO of Capitol Federal Savings of Topeka; David Lindstrom, former Kansas City Chiefs player and Kansas City-area businessman; Mike Michaelis, chairman of the board of Emprise Bank in Wichita and president of Emprise Financial Corp.; Joe Self, a Wichita businessman; and Snyder.