The UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center will be renamed the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio following a $25 million gift bestowed on the cancer center by the Mays Family Foundation.

UT Health San Antonino President Dr. William Henrich at a Tuesday press conference said the funding will be used to establish up to 10 distinguished endowed chairs, invest in new drug discovery, promote research efforts, and support education and training for the next generation of cancer experts.

The $25 million contribution increases the foundation’s total gift to $30 million, building on a 2015 gift of $5 million, which helped establish a large endowment to support the director of the Cancer Center. Tuesday’s announcement was made at the Cancer Center, located at 7979 Wurzbach Rd. in the South Texas Medical Center.

Established in 2004, the foundation focuses on advancing communities in San Antonio and other regions of Texas where the Mays family has strong ties.

Lowry Mays, treasurer of the Mays Family Foundation and founder of Clear Channel Communications, told the Rivard Report that funding world-class cancer treatment is something the foundation was “pleased to do during this critical time,” as the Cancer Center works to develop its affiliation with Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, which launched last year. The partnership is MD Anderson’s sixth in the nation.

“MD Anderson is the best in the world when it comes to cancer treatment,” Mays said. “We are very proud that our family name will forever be associated with [MD Anderson], as they provide unparalleled services to this region that [did not exist] previously.”

The Mays family has supported the Cancer Center since the mid-1990s, when Peggy Mays, a former member of the board of governors of the Cancer Center, founded the Cancer Center’s annual fund program – the Cabinet – in 1996. The Cabinet has raised close to $8 million to provide essential support for innovative cancer research, state-of-the-art equipment, critical cancer education, and patient-care programs.

Kathryn Mays Johnson, Lowry and Peggy Mays’ daughter and president of the Mays Family Foundation, serves on the Cancer Center’s board of governors, and is a past president of the San Antonio Cancer Council. Over the past 33 years, the council has raised more than $4.5 million for the Cancer Center to provide community outreach, education, and patient assistance to the San Antonio community.

Johnson said that advancing cancer research is important to the foundation on a personal level, as cancer has directly affected her family for the last several decades. She and her brother are both cancer survivors, and both of her parents were diagnosed and treated for cancer with UT Health San Antonio (then named the Cancer Treatment and Research Center).

“Almost everyone is touched in some way by cancer and our family is no different,” Johnson said. “My parents’ vision has always been to strengthen the community in which we live, which is what we hope the [Mays Cancer Center] will do,” by providing a place close to home for patients to receive treatment.

A painting of the Cancer Center is displayed as a gift to Kathryn Mays Johnson.
A painting of the Cancer Center is displayed as a gift to Kathryn Mays Johnson (left). Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“Peggy and Lowry Mays and their family, through the Mays Family Foundation, are committed to ensuring that patients in San Antonio and South Texas receive world-class cancer care, close to their community,” Henrich said. “This remarkable San Antonio family has made a significant investment in our region’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center to make exceptional, comprehensive cancer care a reality for South Texans.”

In addition to supporting UT Health San Antonio and the Mays Cancer Center, the Mays family has donated to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, bringing its aggregate giving to the two UT System institutions beyond $50 million.

The Mays Family Foundation was formed in 2004. Lowry Mays’ Clear Channel dominated national radio station ownership during the 1990s, expanding into outdoor advertising. The Mays family sold its interest in the company in 2008.

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.