March 26, 1999

Ingrams add to cancer-fight war chest

Ingrams add to cancer-fight war chest


Orrin Ingram (left) and Dr. Harold Moses in the newly renamed E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

The family of the late E. Bronson Ingram has pledged $56 million to the Vanderbilt Cancer Center – and his son, Orrin, will lead a campaign to nearly double that amount – to advance the fight against the disease that killed Bronson Ingram in 1995, Vanderbilt University officials announced.

In conjunction with the gift, the Vanderbilt Cancer Center has been renamed the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt in memory of Ingram and in recognition of his and his family's unwavering support of Vanderbilt, particularly its internationally known cancer research programs.

" Bronson Ingram was a tireless champion of Vanderbilt University, and his death in 1995 was a tremendous loss for the University and for our entire community," said Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt. Bronson's generosity – of his time, his talents, his energy and his own financial resources – was boundless, and his wise counsel was invaluable.

"To no one's surprise, his family has continued his strong legacy of commitment and philanthropy, and to them, we offer our deep and sincere gratitude. We at Vanderbilt are proud that the Ingram family has demonstrated such confidence in us. We know that with their generous support and with the hard work and talent of our scientists and caregivers, the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center will be a significant contributor to the worldwide effort to conquer cancer. Its establishment is a lasting memorial to Bronson's generosity and his leadership."

The Cancer Center donation will provide the nucleus of funds to launch an ambitious plan to place the E. Bronson Ingram at the forefront of the world's very top cancer centers. It is the first announced distribution from the largest gift in the university's history, pledged last winter by the Ingram family and valued at more than $300 million.

"As a family, we believe so strongly in Vanderbilt that when we created the Ingram Charitable Fund, the University was designated as the major beneficiary," said Martha R. Ingram, who succeeded her husband as chairman of Ingram Industries and serves as a member of the Vanderbilt Board. "The Cancer Center is a component of Vanderbilt that our entire family agrees is extremely important, and it will continue to be a major focus of our efforts in the future."

Combined with resources generated by the fund-raising campaign, the Cancer Center investment will be used to bring the best and brightest cancer researchers to Vanderbilt, provide those scientists with state-of-the-art equipment needed to pursue their work, and expand Vanderbilt's efforts in cancer treatment, prevention, and research.

"Our goal is very direct: we want to prevent most cancers and treat those that do develop with therapies that are more targeted and less toxic than ever before," said Dr. Harold L. Moses, Benjamin F. Byrd Professor of Oncology and director of the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center.

"Just a few years ago, I would have been skeptical that this goal could be achieved. However, in the last decade or so, we have made incredible strides in understanding what basic steps make a normal cell become cancerous and grow out of control. The generosity of the Ingram family and the resources generated by this campaign will provide an invaluable jump-start to our work, allowing us to reach our goals much more quickly and helping ensure Vanderbilt's place among the leaders in the worldwide battle against this disease.

"Ultimately, everyone will benefit from this gift, because saving time in reaching our goal of preventing and curing cancer translates into saving lives."

Cancer kills more than a half million Americans each year – more than 1,500 every day, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every four deaths and exceeded only by heart disease. This year, more than 1.2 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States.

The Ingrams have been strong and active supporters of Vanderbilt University and Medical Center for many years. Bronson Ingram served as president of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust from 1991 until his death and led the University's last capital campaign, which raised more than $560 million in gifts, pledges and planned bequests by its end in 1995.

The Ingrams' support of the Vanderbilt Cancer Center began before Bronson Ingram's death. It includes establishment of the Hortense B. Ingram Professorship of Molecular Oncology in honor of his mother, who also died of cancer, and the funding of recruitment of key faculty and a number of innovative pilot cancer research projects.

After his father's death, Orrin H. Ingram II, chairman of Ingram Barge Co., became actively involved with the Vanderbilt Cancer Center's Board of Overseers. Before taking the helm as the board's chairman in November, he chaired its development committee, established a program to raise private donations for "discovery grants" to fund innovative new research, and launched a series of educational lunch programs to increase awareness of the need for support for cancer research.

"I have said many times that, because of the devastation that cancer has caused my family — taking first my grandmother and then my father — I have a very personal grudge against cancer," said Orrin Ingram, who also serves, along with his brother John, as co-president of Ingram Industries. "My family and I can't fight this disease by making the important discoveries in the lab, but we can fight it by making sure the scientists and doctors have the resources they need to make those discoveries."

Orrin Ingram noted that his family could have invested their money in any cancer research facility in the world, but that they have faith in the work being done at Vanderbilt.

"I have seen firsthand the exciting research going on at Vanderbilt, and I have come to know and respect Dr. Moses' leadership, dedication and commitment to help prevent other families from having to face what our family has faced," Orrin Ingram said. "I have no doubt that many of the most significant discoveries in cancer research in the next century will be made in the labs and in the clinics at Vanderbilt. This was part of my father's vision for Vanderbilt, and I know he would be proud that we're helping to make it possible."

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has a long history of ground-breaking cancer-related research, including the work of its two Nobel laureates, Earl Sutherland and Stanley Cohen. Vanderbilt has also provided state-of-the-art cancer care for many years, treating more cancer patients in the region than any other hospital.

However, in 1993, the Vanderbilt Cancer Center was established as a formal organization with the goal of closely linking treatment and research efforts and moving exciting discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.

Just two years later, the Vanderbilt Cancer Center was recognized by the National Cancer Institute – a branch of the National Institutes of Health – as a national leader in cancer care and research. It became one of a select group of officially designated NCI cancer centers, one of only two in Tennessee and the only one in the state to focus on treatment and research in all cancers in adults and children. For patients in the region, the NCI-designation meant greater access to even more of the very latest therapies, without having to travel far from home.

"That the Vanderbilt Cancer Center achieved its NCI designation in such short order was a very impressive accomplishment," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

"With this critical support from the Ingram family, the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center is in a position to reach even greater heights. Our scientists are aggressively pursuing some of the most promising areas of cancer research, including gene therapy, cancer vaccines, and new approaches to interfere with the basic steps that enable tumors to grow and spread. This generous gift will enable us to advance these approaches and make as-yet-unimagined discoveries in the coming years."