$21 million gift to University of Florida to boost cancer initiative and hospital project

Published: July 2nd, 2009

Category: Development

Eleven years ago Jerry and Judy Davis helped jumpstart the cancer program at the University of Florida with a $5 million donation. On March 2, the university announced that the Jacksonville couple has strengthened its commitment in the fight against cancer with an additional $21 million gift to the UF Shands Cancer Center.

The Davises gave $20 million to the College of Medicine to create the Jerry W. and Judith S. Davis Cancer Endowment. The gift is the largest single donation made to the College of Medicine, and it will be used to support teaching, research and programs in cancer, with special emphasis on research in lymphoma, breast cancer, bone marrow and gastrointestinal cancer.

Shands HealthCare also received $1 million for its Raising Hope Campaign to support construction of the $388 million Shands at UF Cancer Hospital.

“Anyone who has been touched by cancer knows that when it strikes, it affects not just the individual, but everyone around that person,” said Jerry Davis, who has survived several bouts with cancer and whose wife, Judy, is a breast cancer survivor. “We are blessed to have some of the best physicians in academic medicine today at the University of Florida, and we want to retain those outstanding physicians and attract more.”

In 1998, the Davises donated $5 million to the College of Medicine’s cancer research programs. The gift was matched by the state, and the $10 million endowment was used to recruit world-class scientists and expand the research programs at the college. The outpatient care component of the UFSCC was named the Jerry W. and Judith S. Davis Cancer Pavilion in recognition of their support.

The couple’s recent gift is expected to speed the clinical translation of novel research findings into developing new therapies and diagnostic tools.

“Jerry and Judy Davis understand that gifts that support university research can really improve people’s lives,” said UF President Bernie Machen. “They both suffered from cancer, and they both benefited from advances in cancer treatment. Their gift has a real potential to lead to new treatments or cures for other cancer patients who today have limited options.”

Jerry Davis, a private investor and 1968 graduate of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, has served on the Shands HealthCare board of directors since 2001. He and his wife serve as co-chairs of the Shands cancer hospital fundraising effort.

“Jerry and Judy Davis have been supportive throughout the process to realize our vision for the Shands at UF Cancer Hospital,” said Shands HealthCare CEO Timothy Goldfarb. “Jerry has been a dedicated Shands board member and health-care advocate. His leadership as Raising Hope Capital Campaign chair has supported this endeavor on behalf of our patients and communities.”

The 500,000-square-foot Shands at UF Cancer Hospital will house 192 private inpatient beds for a variety of patients and will also include a critical care center for emergency- and trauma-related services.

Dr. Joseph V. Simone, director of the UFSCC, said the “enormous” gift from the Davises will help ensure that the cancer center has the resources necessary for discovering better tools for treating cancer.

“All future patients will owe them a heartfelt debt of gratitude,” Simone said.

One out of every seven adults hospitalized at Shands at UF each year is treated for cancer or cancer-related ailments. According to the American Cancer Society, Florida is second only to California in cancer occurrence.

“It may not be in my lifetime, but I think in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime cancer will not be the disease it is today,” Jerry Davis said. “In 10 years it should be much more controllable.

“I think the University of Florida will have a role in making that happen.”