Gift to fund cancer studies

$10 million donation made by Knott family to Johns Hopkins

Link to disease personal

Oncology, new genetic research directorships also will be funded

October 10, 1999|By Gary Dorsey | Gary Dorsey,SUN STAFF

Baltimore philanthropist Marion I. Knott, witness to some of her own children's struggles with cancer, has given $10 million to support research in cancer and medical genetics at the Johns Hopkins University medical school.

The money will be used, in part, to appoint a director of the new medical genetics Institute and will endow the directorship of the school's oncology department.

"The Knott family has been very supportive for years with traditional bricks-and-mortar projects here," said Dr. Edward D. Miller, chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "But it's so significant that they also understand the importance of the programs that go with the structure. It's truly remarkable."

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's late editions of The Sun, a chart accompanying an article about a $10 million gift to the Johns Hopkins University medical school omitted two gifts that were among the largest to the institution and gave an incorrect year for another. Omitted from the list were $13 million from the Hodson Trust and $10 million from the France-Merrick Foundation, both given this year. In addition, a $20 million gift from Champlin and Debbie Sheridan was given in 1994, not 1967, as reported. The Sun regrets the omissions and error.

Over the years, several members of the Knott family have struggled with cancer. Two of Mrs. Knott's daughters died from the disease -- Catherine K. Weis only a few months ago, according to Miller. One of her sons, Henry J. Knott Jr., was treated successfully for cancer at Hopkins, and another daughter is also a survivor.

"My mother believes strongly in the importance of the work under way at Hopkins in understanding, preventing and treating cancer and other devastating diseases," said Henry Knott Jr. in a prepared statement.

An announcement of the gift was made last night at a dinner in the Baltimore Convention Center to celebrate the success of the Johns Hopkins Initiative, the school's fund-raising effort, which has commitments of $1.3 billion.

Part of the $10 million Knott gift will help the school hire its first director of the new McKusick-Nathans Medical Genetics Institute. The purpose of the institute is to gather researchers and scientists from diverse specialties around the school for collaborative projects aimed at understanding the underlying genetic issues in cancer research.

The post has been named the Henry J. Knott Director and Professor of Medical Genetics, in honor of Mrs. Knott's husband.

Another portion of the money will be used in the oncology department to create innovative programs in cancer prevention and therapies.

"Quite frankly, I have lots of ideas," said Martin D. Abeloff, who heads the department and will now be known as the Marion I. Knott Director and Professor of Oncology. "It is coincidental that in June we had a strategic planning retreat of our scientific leadership and identified some new priorities. Now we can go back to those and make some decisions.

"This is a remarkably enabling gift. What it does is give you flexibility and a vote of confidence for the institution. The concept of endowing directorships is an enormously positive step."

The Knott family has played a significant role in funding Baltimore institutions. Mrs. Knott and her husband, who died in 1995, have been among the city's most prominent philanthropists.

The family has maintained close ties with the school, not only through financial gifts, but also by offering time to serve on its various boards. Henry Knott, for example, was a hospital trustee for many years. His son, Francis X. Knott, now serves on the boards of the hospital and the university.

Henry Knott earned his fortune by creating one of the area's major construction companies and capitalizing on Baltimore's suburban growth following World War II. Wary of the pitfalls of wealth, Knott once warned his 12 children in a letter sent in 1990, "All the lousy money in the world won't do you any good in eternity."

LARGEST GIFTS TO JOHNS HOPKINS

Amount, Donor, Year

$100 million, Michael Bloomberg, 1995, 1998

$50 million, Zanvyl Krieger, 1992

$20 million, Champlin and Debbie Sheridan, 1967

$20 million, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg, 1995

$20 million, Bill and Melinda Gates, 1999

$17.7 million, Glenn Stewart, 1982

$17 million, Whitaker Foundaion, 1998

$15 million, Anonymous, 1996

$14.6 million, Elizabeth Banks, 1989

$10 million, Lenox and Francis Baker,1996

$10 million, Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, 1999

$10 million, Bunting family, 1995

$10 million, James Clark, 1998

$10 million, Barclay Knapp, 1999

$10 million, Marion I. Knott, 1999

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