• VIDEO: Pamela Bartling Buffett speaks about her decision to donate toward the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.
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The two main parts of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center — the research tower and the hospital — got their own names Tuesday during the project's groundbreaking ceremony.
The Buffett Cancer Center's 10-story research building will be called the Suzanne and Walter Scott Cancer Research Tower, and the 108-bed inpatient treatment center will be named the CL Werner Cancer Hospital.
The Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation and the CL Werner Foundation provided large donations to the $370 million project. Pamela Bartling Buffett, the widow of Fred C. “Fritz” Buffett, investor Warren Buffett's first cousin, is the project's lead donor. The amounts of the individual donations weren't disclosed.
“These are wonderful gifts from these philanthropic people that make this an exciting reality here,” said Dr. Harold Maurer, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where the cancer center will be built. “We are very grateful to them and we are very proud of the fact that they are participating and making an impact here.”
Walter Scott Jr., chairman emeritus and former CEO of Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc., said the groundbreaking is an important first step. He said additional funds — $75 million or more — must be raised “to get the very best and brightest people and to allow some money for research.”
“It's going to be an absolutely great physical facility,” he said. “On the other hand, we have to think beyond that because you have to have great people doing the research.
You have to have great doctors. What do we do after the thing is built?”
The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus will be made up of a research tower and a cancer hospital for both inpatients and outpatients when completed in 2016. The names of those structures, which will be connected, were announced on Tuesday:
Suzanne and Walter Scott Cancer Research Center
» 252,000 square feet, 98 labs, 10 floors
» Seven floors dedicated to research, including breast, brain, pancreatic, gastrointestinal, prostate, lymphoma, leukemia, lung, head and neck, and women's cancer, as well as cancer vaccines, drug development and pediatric cancer
» Lobby floor includes a reception area, waiting area, cafe, lab space and conference center.
CL Werner Cancer Hospital
» 108-bed inpatient hospital, which includes three total floors
» Public support: Nebraska Legislature, $50 million pledged for the research tower; City of Omaha, $35 million; and Douglas County, $5 million
» Private support: $160 million. Besides the Buffetts, Scotts and Werners, principal benefactors include the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation; Clarkson Regional Health Services; Peter Kiewit Foundation; and the Holland Foundation.
Other founding benefactors are UNMC Physicians, Mutual of Omaha Foundation, the David Scott Foundation, Amy L. Scott Foundation, Parker Family Foundation, Dixon Family Foundation, Shirley and Jim Young, Acklie Charitable Foundation, Mammel Foundation, Patti and David Aresty, Iowa West Foundation and HDR.
First things first. The groundbreaking attracted about 700 people, including Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman; Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle; University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken; Pamela Bartling Buffett; Warren Buffett's daughter, philanthropist Susie Buffett; Werner and his wife, Rachel; two of Walter Scott's children, David Scott and Amy Scott-Willer; other donors; members of the Board of Regents; and UNMC officials, physicians, researchers and staff members.
The entire cancer center project has attracted $160 million in donations in addition to the combined $90 million public commitment from the State of Nebraska, the City of Omaha and Douglas County. The Nebraska Medical Center, UNMC's hospital partner that will run the cancer hospital, also can borrow up to $120 million by issuing bonds.
In addition, an employee campaign raised more than $322,000 for the project.
It's the state's biggest-ever public-private partnership.
Seventeen of the project's donors have given more than $1 million each, said Glenn Fosdick, the Nebraska Medical Center's CEO.
“When you look at the amount of money that was raised in a reasonably short period of time,” Fosdick said, “it reflects the community's commitment. When they think something is important, they find ways to get it done.”
Werner's gift was one of the first to come in after the public money was committed.
Werner, 75, is chairman emeritus of Werner Enterprises Inc., one of the nation's largest trucking companies with 7,000 trucks, more than 12,000 employees and contractors on six continents. In 2009, the Werner family made a $5 million gift that established the CL Werner Family Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Laboratories on the third floor of the second of the two Durham Research Center towers.
Gail Werner-Robertson, Werner's daughter and chairman of the board of the CL Werner Foundation, said ahead of Tuesday's event that her family was impressed by officials' plans to combine cancer research and clinical care in the Buffett center. Plans for the center call for cancer doctors, cancer researchers and their labs and inpatient beds for cancer patients to be in connected buildings. Such a configuration is rare among the nation's cancer centers because of space restrictions on crowded, land-locked campuses.
“This is just a more efficient model, and hopefully it will mean more of that research getting onto the clinic floor and being used to save lives,” Werner-Robertson said.
CL Werner likes to direct his donations to projects that have “a high return on investment,” his daughter said. “He really likes to see projects like this one where this gift will have a big impact on, hopefully, hundreds of thousands of people's lives.”
Scott, 82, said Monday that in addition to the benefits to cancer patients, the project is a good one from a business standpoint.
The center's 1,200 good-paying jobs are “very important for the university and the city and Nebraska,” he said.
Scott and his wife, Suzanne, have given millions of dollars for public buildings, scholarships and other causes, including the Henry Doorly Zoo, Joslyn Art Museum, what's now the CenturyLink Center and the Peter Kiewit Institute on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus, plus dormitories and a conference center at UNO.
“I can't think of a major project in Omaha over the last several decades that Walter and Sue have not been involved in in one way or the other,” said Mogens Bay, chairman and CEO of Valmont Industries. Walter Scott, Bay said, has been on the Valmont board for more than 30 years. “Usually, on these big projects, he takes the lead and provides good leadership, then he draws people in who can help get the job done.”
Scott gives a lot of credit for the cancer project's success to Maurer and, especially, to Mike Yanney, an Omaha businessman who, with his wife, Dr. Gail Yanney, is co-chairman of the University of Nebraska Foundation's Campaign for Nebraska, the project's fundraising campaign.
“If he (Yanney) hadn't been able to get the state to participate, the city to participate, the hospital and others, I think it would be virtually impossible to raise the necessary money to build the cancer center,” Scott said.
At the Tuesday ceremony, officials announced that a conference center in the complex would be named after the Yanneys.
The project also includes a $47 million outpatient treatment center that's not cancer-related. That building, which has not yet been named, will be located elsewhere on campus.
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Pamela Bartling Buffett speaks about her decision to donate toward the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its hospital partner, the Nebraska Medical Center. The video was presented at a dinner Tuesday evening held at the CenturyLink Center to honor the project's donors.