LAWRENCE — A $1.3 million challenge grant from the Hall Family Foundation sparked a gift commitment of $650,000 from the Sunderland Family Fund,and together the gifts will establish the A. Drue Jennings Professorship in Medical Oncology at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
The professorship is named in honor of Drue Jennings, former chairman of the Board of Trustees of KU Endowment. Jennings, of Leawood, is a KU alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in education and a law degree. He is a retired senior counsel for the law firm Polsinelli PC in Kansas City, Missouri; former interim athletic director for KU and former chairman and CEO of Kansas City Power & Light.
The gift will support the salary, travel and associated costs for the medical oncology professorship, which will be at The University of Kansas Cancer Center and in the Department of Internal Medicine at KU Medical Center.
Jennings said he was overwhelmed by the donors’ generosity and honored to be the namesake for the professorship.
“Many lives have been improved by the team at our Cancer Center thanks to the vital generosity of the Hall Family Foundation and the Sunderland Family Fund and the outstanding leadership of Roy Jensen and Bob Page,” Jennings said. “We are a better community because of them, and I am personally grateful.”
Jennings was one of the founding members of the Advancement Board and served as chair from 2005 to 2008. This advisory group comprises more than 85 appointed members who represent the objectives of KU Medical Center, The University of Kansas Hospital and The University of Kansas Physicians. The board works to develop community and public support for the academic medical center and to bolster philanthropic efforts for medical education, research and patient care.
Jennings also was instrumental in the creation of the Cancer Funding Partners, a subcommittee of the Advancement Board that focuses on fundraising and advocacy for the Cancer Center. He served as chair from 2009 to 2012 and continues to serve on this subcommittee to date.
Charlie Sunderland, of Overland Park, who represents the Sunderland Family Fund, led efforts with Jennings to raise the funds needed for National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation at the Cancer Center. The designation was achieved in 2012, and the Cancer Center is currently working toward the next level — NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation — in part through the efforts of Sunderland, Jennings and the Hall Family Foundation.
Sunderland, a cancer survivor himself, is the former chair of the Cancer Funding Partners. He is the chairman and CEO of Ash Grove Cement Company in Overland Park.
The Hall Family Foundation has supported several disciplines at KU, including life sciences, business, biology and humanities. The foundation’s support was instrumental in KU’s achievement of NCI designation. The foundation’s challenge grant sought to establish the professorship as a step toward the Cancer Center’s quest for NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation.
Sunderland said his family was pleased to join the Hall Family Foundation in making the professorship a reality.
“We saw this as an opportunity to invest along with the Hall family in a critical mission of the University of Kansas Medical School and simultaneously honor the outstanding contributions Drue has made to the university,” Sunderland said.
Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the Cancer Center, shared his gratitude for the gifts, which help the Cancer Center take one more step toward comprehensive status.
“Drue has worked tirelessly toward the advancement of the Cancer Center and NCI designation, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor,” Jensen said. “Thanks to the Sunderlands and the Hall Family Foundation, this professorship takes the Cancer Center a step closer to NCI Comprehensive designation and furthers the Cancer Center’s mission to provide excellent patient care.”
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.