Written by Rachel Erin McKeighan
Meet Ginny Clements, who recently established the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Institute at the University of Arizona Cancer Center with an $8.5 million gift.
Ginny is a former Phoenix and Tucson businesswoman celebrating her 65th year without cancer this month. After recovering, she didn’t speak publicly about her experience for 50 years. At that time, she established a research fund and came forward with her story to provide hope to others diagnosed with breast cancer. Ginny’s philanthropy continues to be transformational in the fight to eradicate breast cancer.
Her gift will benefit all Arizonans by enhancing research and care capabilities at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with headquarters in the state.
Ginny sat down with our content writer and University of Arizona student, Rachel Erin McKeighan, to chat about her groundbreaking donation and philanthropic work!
Could you tell me about your inspiration for the Institute?
In 2006, I announced that I wanted to start a breast cancer research fund at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, which became the Ginny L Clements Breast Cancer Research Fund.
That marked 50 years of being a cancer survivor. Since that initial gift-giving time, it occurred to me, in the summer of 2019, that I wanted to open the horizon at the Cancer Center by starting a breast cancer institute. The timing was right! Little did I know what happened to me in 1956 would be my passion 65 years later to help make a difference in the world.
Why the University of Arizona?
Why not the University of Arizona and the University of Arizona Cancer Center? They both are an intricate part of our community. The team at the University of Arizona that I have collaborated with this past year and a half have been a cohesive part of my journey. To make this donation a reality for breast cancer research in every way. I believe that timing is everything in life. The U of A has solid leadership, which made my decision to make this gift an easy reality and to be able to see it grow during my lifetime.
What caused you to break your 50-year silence about your diagnosis and recovery?
When I had breast cancer at the tender age of 15, no one ever spoke about breast cancer or any cancer during those times. What does a healthy young girl, into everything imaginable at her small high school, had any thought about breast cancer.
Everyone in my small town of Fowler, CA, knew that I had my breast removed. It was traumatic. So, years passed, times and attitudes changed, and because of the start of the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure and other breast cancer events, and reading Nancy Brinker’s book “Promise Me” gave me fortitude and healing for me to be more open about my journey. I COULD make a difference. Of course, I was older, and I was more secure about my personal situation.
What have you learned from your experiences with breast cancer in the business world and establishing this fund you would like others to know?
Breast cancer in women and men and their decision on how to handle their body is just that. It’s their decision. If asked by a person, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, what they should do, my answer would be straightforward. There aren’t any easy answers.
So much has changed since I had breast cancer, new drugs, chemotherapy, and more. It is how comfortable they are making their decision. When we finish our selection of a Director for the Ginny L Clements Breast Cancer Research Institute, he or she will have a specific direction of how, when, and where we will be headed. We have several exceptional researchers right now in clinical trials for breast cancer.
This research and new knowledge will grow with the gift that I have given to establish this breast cancer institute. I hope this answers your question because HOPE is everything.
What do you hope to see the Institute accomplish?
Again, I hope to eradicate breast cancer in my lifetime. Working together, WE can make a difference, and as I have stated before, it takes a village, the clinicians, the researcher, and donors. We ALL have to have HOPE. It is the only answer that I can think of, and I get tears in my eyes when I think of me at such a young age paddling upstream and now, I have been blessed to be able to make a difference, with my gift, to the U of A Cancer Center. I am truly humbled.