A breast cancer survivor and longtime supporter of the University of Arizona has given $8.5 million to the UArizona Cancer Center to strengthen the center's breast cancer patient care and research programs.
Ginny L. Clements made the gift in advance of the 65th anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis. Clements was diagnosed in April 1956.
"I was 15 years old when I had breast cancer. Losing my breast at such a very young age is probably the most traumatic experience that I have endured,” Clements said. “I know now that there was a reason for my tragedy, and I have persevered. Here I am today, doing something that I feel is going to help those who are fighting the fight, those who are survivors and even those who weren't so fortunate.”
The gift establishes an endowment for the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Institute and will fund a new endowed director's chair, two professorships, startup packages for those professors, and lab renovations.
Among other contributions to the university, Clements established the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Fund, also at the Cancer Center, in 2006. The fund has provided the center's researchers critical resources to initiate original investigations and expedite critical research. This results in the ability to test promising medicines and therapeutic approaches. Clements also has served on the center's advisory board. She hopes her research support will help eradicate the disease.
“I hope it’s going to happen here at the University of Arizona,” Clements said.
Until Clements established the research fund in 2006, she didn’t speak publicly about her experience. She chose to do so then in order to inspire others diagnosed with breast cancer. A California native, Clements moved to Tucson with her family in 1974. She and her husband, Bill Clements, started Golden Eagle Distributors, the local distributor of Anheuser-Busch products.
In 1995, she lost her husband to lung cancer. Clements took over the company and led a period of record sales and expansion until her retirement from daily business operations in 2003. Golden Eagle was one of the largest privately held businesses in Arizona when it was sold in 2016 to Hensley Beverage Co.
Clements’ generosity will expand the Cancer Center’s ability to offer a comprehensive approach to breast cancer research and treatment, said Joann Sweasy, UArizona Cancer Center director, who holds the Nancy C. and Craig M. Berge Endowed Chair.
“We plan to recruit the finest clinician-scientists, basic scientists and top experts in breast cancer research so they can work together at our center. This collaborative approach will lead to novel discoveries and cutting-edge treatments that will have a direct and positive impact for patients across Arizona and well beyond," Sweasy said.
Sweasy’s vision is for the center to be an international destination center for breast cancer treatment and research, she said.
"We are doing a really great job right now, but the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Institute is going to take us beyond what we have already done. It is going to allow us to do something very bold," she said.