|The University of New Mexico|
A Publication of
of New Mexico
By Ellen K. Pranno
We all have heard the familiar phrase, "A penny saved is a penny earned," although in today's economy we may ignore the copper piece we spy lying on the sidewalk. One UNM benefactor, however, grasped the truth of the quotation, and by saving small amounts and living thriftily, was able to make a large gift by including the UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center (CRTC) in his will.
Henry Jacob "Jack" Gies (pronounced "guys") was an 8-year-old immigrant when he came to the United States in 1912. Family members he left behind in Russia eventually starved to death. Coming from a poor family, Jack began his saving habits as a child, squirreling away pennies from his job selling newspapers. Jack eventually became a railroad switchman. He met Edyth Beverforden in a streetcar while attending apprenticeship school, and they were married in Kansas City on Nov. 19, 1927. To supplement their income, Edyth cleaned houses, took in laundry, sewed and did odd jobs.
Eventually the couple relocated to Albuquerque and lived modestly in a trailer home on Zuni Road. They had no children. Throughout their lives, they saved carefully for their future together. After 46 years with the Santa Fe Railroad, Jack retired as scale inspector. Unfortunately, in July 1993, after 65 years of marriage, cancer took Edyth from Jack, so they did not fully enjoy the fruits of their labors together. Jack lived his final years in a nursing home where he died on June 19, 1998.
Concerned about other organizations pressuring Jack about his philanthropy, a neighbor put him in touch with the CRTC. When UNM officials first began talking with Jack about his estate, they thought his potential gift would be in the $25,000-50,000 range. Imagine their surprise when they learned that the gift would be $660,000. Penny saving and frugal living added up.
Making the gift in memory of Edyth, Jack wrote, "My wife suffered with cancer, as did her sister and her father in addition to my own father and sister and many others who my wife and I have known. I wish to have this gift used by the Cancer Research and Treatment Center for the furtherance of their work which may relieve the suffering of cancer patients and may hopefully contribute to a cure for cancer."
Cheryl Willman, M.D., director and CEO of the CRTC, says the Gies gift will help accomplish the goal "to continue enhancing the quality of our science and translating that science to a better life for people affected by cancer." Under Willman's leadership, the CRTC is working toward achieving a National Cancer Institute designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center within three years. "To do that," says Willman, "we have to do great cancer research, and we have to show that our cancer research directly translates into new treatment and prevention strategies for our patients. We are also further developing our prevention, screening, community outreach and education programs."
Gies' gift will help to achieve the designation through strengthening of the CRTC's research efforts. Willman is excited about expanding the CRTC's genetics and genomics research program, which has to do with molecular oncology, gene mapping and DNA damage and repair. "Ultimately, our scientific advances in this field will allow us to individually tailor therapy for each patient." The technology for such research requires very sophisticated, and thus, very expensive, instruments and computers. At this point, Gies' gift is tagged for developing a genomics core facility that will serve the research activities for the entire UNM Health Sciences Center. "Our primary goal," says Willman, "is to increase the quality of cancer care for children and adults statewide…to provide innovative cancer care."
And according to Willman, increasing the quality of cancer care in our region depends on providing access to innovative therapies and clinical trials. Clinical trials compare new, cutting-edge treatments with the best treatments currently available for a cancer based on results of past research. Cancer patients who participate in trials are not given placebos and receive health care provided by leading physicians in the field of cancer research, as well as early access to new drugs and interventions. "Cancer patients need to be in a clinical trial. A clinical trial allows the very best therapy there is -- state of the art therapy. Only 4-10 percent of adults are on NCI clinical trials; 95 percent of children are," says Willman, emphasizing the need to increase adult participation.
To give New Mexicans greater access to clinical trials, Willman and her colleagues are working on the creation of an integrated cancer clinical trials network in New Mexico. Called the New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Care Alliance, UNM is partnering with the area's major healthcare providers -- Lovelace Health Systems, Presbyterian Healthcare Services and St. Joseph Healthcare‹to help make clinical trials more available to cancer patients statewide. "The goal is to partner the University and community in a way that synergizes both sides and increases the number of patients in clinical trials," says Willman.
Clearly, the CRTC at UNM has ambitious plans to continue bettering cancer care in our community. And Jack Gies' gift, along with others like it, truly impacts the CRTC's ability to do so. For more information about including UNM in your will, call Trudy Lee, planned giving manager, at (505) 277-4503 or 1-800-UNM-FUND.
© 2006 The University of New Mexico.