Jim Hull often sees things through the lens of commercial real estate, an occupational hazard for the founder of one of the largest retail mall owners in the country.
The Augusta philanthropist, who rallied the fundraising effort for the Education Commons on the medical campus of Georgia Regents University, has set his sights on another piece of the campus.
“I look at things like a shopping center. You’ve got to have anchors. You’ve got the Commons,” Hull said. “Now, we’ve got the cancer center, which is really another anchor, a key component.”
Hull, whose name in on the university’s business college because of his donations, is out in front of a coming capital campaign that needs to raise $12.5 million in nine months for a cancer center.
The total cost of the proposed center is $62.5 million. Most of the money is coming from the state. Georgia approved $45 million in general obligation bond funding toward the cancer treatment and research building.
To get the state money, the university needs to raise the remainder by June.
“It’s challenging any time you try to raise $12 million in a short period of time,” said Susan Barcus, GRU’s chief development officer.
“But we feel it is doable for a couple of reasons. … there is a such a great need and it will have leveraged impact throughout the state.”
Barcus said the university over the past few years has partnered with supportive local leaders such as Hull, Clay Boardman and Will McKnight to take up the torch for fundraising, which was done for the proposed Education Commons.
A formal leadership group for the cancer center project is being assembled, Barcus said.
“Right now, our patients have to go to different places to get care. The new cancer center will provide all our services in one convenient area,” said Dr. Samir Khleif, the director of the GRU Cancer Center. “In addition, by placing our researchers and clinicians under one roof, we can, as a team, better focus on our patients and the patient’s family.”
GRU officials said building the center would be a critical step toward getting a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center designation. Georgia has only one NCI center now – at Emory University.
Hull said he would be one of the initial donors and spearhead the initiative to find local contributors, where there should be a lot of people touched by cancer.
“Every person that I know has at least one person very close – family member, friend, spouse – that has been touched by cancer,” Barcus said.
“My husband and I are already lined up behind this. Cancer research is what kept my mother here. … six years longer than we thought we would.”