LMH Health receives $10 million donation to fund future strategic projects

photo by: Contributed

Dana and Sue Anderson

LMH Health has received a $10 million pledge — the largest in the hospital’s 101-year history — from Lawrence businessman and philanthropist Dana Anderson.

The hospital may have a real estate downturn 60 years ago to thank for the gift, which is unrestricted and will allow the hospital to fund a variety of strategic needs as they arise.

“I started in real estate at 27 years old and essentially went broke,” Anderson, now 87, said in an interview with the Journal-World. “One lawyer told me the easy answer was bankruptcy, but I couldn’t do that.”

Instead, Anderson went to his three lenders and asked them for more time and some adjustments on the interest that was due, in exchange for a promise that he would get the debts paid. All three accommodated to varying degrees, and the banks eventually got their money.

Anderson, on the other hand, got a future promise to himself.

“At that point, I began thinking that if I ever made it some day, I would share it with others,” Anderson said.

While he never forgot that promise, the hospital — plus the University of Kansas and a host of other institutions that have received donations from Anderson — have benefited from his wife, Sue Anderson, being the time keeper on the promise.

Sue was the one who altered the family’s plan to leave sizable donations to various entities upon their deaths. She asked Dana why they wouldn’t give the money now, when they could still see the projects and initiatives it funded?

“She used to remind me that the hearse doesn’t have a luggage rack on top,” Dana said.

Sue died in February of 2021 from leukemia. She received care at LMH, but that is not what spurred the gift. The couple had started giving to the hospital years earlier after Anderson had trouble getting an appointment at the hospital’s heart catheterization lab due to high demand. That got the couple thinking about how they could help fund an expansion of the hospital’s heart cath lab. A trip to LMH for a hip replacement, where Dana’s doctor talked to him about the wonders of robotic-assisted surgery, got the couple thinking about how they could help fund the purchase of robotic surgery systems.

Those ideas led to a $1 million donation to the hospital in 2020. The idea for a $10 million donation came later, and this one didn’t involve a trip to the doctor. Just a memory of his late wife.

“Sue really inspired all of this the first time, and this latest gift is really a tribute to her,” Dana said. “She made me a better person in every regard.”

photo by: LMH Health

LMH Health, 325 Maine St., is pictured in May 2021.

Hospital leaders labeled the gift as “transformative” for LMH Health.

“The magnitude of this commitment from the Andersons is significant, and it will have an enduring impact on our mission,” Russ Johnson, president and CEO of LMH Health, said in a release. “It was a joy to know Sue, and the way Dana has chosen to honor her through this gift is so consistent with the strength of their relationship. We are humbled and grateful for the Andersons’ leadership and their ongoing support of our physicians, nurses and clinical teams.”

In an interview, Johnson said portions of the donation likely will be used to fund advancements in cancer care, cardiology, orthopedics and other major areas of care provided at the hospital. But hospital leaders said a major benefit of the gift is that Anderson hasn’t tied the money to any one specific use but rather has directed LMH to spend it on strategic initiatives that become important over time.

Rebecca Smith, executive director of the LMH Health Foundation that secured the gift, said the gift gives the hospital the opportunity to continue to fund excellence.

“We often say that philanthropy is the difference between the maintenance of a strong institution and the evolution of an extraordinary one,” Smith said in a release. “Over the past decade, Sue and Dana’s support has ensured LMH is not just a great community hospital, it’s an exceptional hospital — period. And now, we are the grateful recipients of a truly transformational gift — one that will ensure continued advancements in healthcare for generations to come.”

The donation is structured so that LMH Health will receive $5 million of the gift immediately. The remaining $5 million will come to the hospital from Anderson’s estate, and will be set up as an endowment that will provide income to LMH Health in perpetuity.

LMH Health will name the hospital’s medical plaza at 326 Arkansas St. — it is the wing of the hospital that houses the LMH Cancer Center, obstetrics department and many other outpatient services — the Anderson Health Plaza.

“The LMH Health Foundation’s purpose is to inspire community and philanthropic support for LMH Health, and the Andersons have played a vital role in that effort, both as donors and as leaders,” Mark Gonzales, president of the foundation’s board of directors, said in a release. “We are incredibly grateful for the trust Dana has placed in both the foundation and the hospital, and we look forward to celebrating all it makes possible.”

Johnson said the value of the Andersons’ gift will go beyond its monetary value.

“This kind of gift from this kind of person — who everyone recognizes is not just a good businessman, but an outstanding one, and a community leader who is very thoughtful about what he supports — I think this puts our foundation at a whole new level,” Johnson said. “It just increases the awareness and credibility of the foundation as an important place to invest for people who have the means to invest.”

Anderson, in case you haven’t surmised, figured out real estate. He ended up being a principal of one of the largest shopping mall development companies in the U.S. After spending nearly 40 years based in California, the couple moved to Lawrence in 2014, to be closer to their son, Justin, and his family.

It also was a chance for Dana to get closer to his alma mater. From California, the Andersons had donated heavily to the University of Kansas for years. Dana estimated that he has given $25 million to $30 million to KU and expects to give some more.

“I still love KU, and I will continue to make gifts there,” he said.

But this latest gift to LMH Health felt like the perfect gift at the perfect time, he said.

“It is a tribute to Sue, really and fundamentally,” he said. “She would have applauded it. I am 100 percent happy and pleased to be able to do it.”

photo by: Nick Krug

Dana Anderson sits courtside before the Kansas University men’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in this 2017 file photo.

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