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$1 million gift from couple to expand UT research into pancreatic cancer

Toledo businessman Hal Fetterman and his wife, Susan Fetterman, have pledged $1 million to The University of Toledo to fund new research into treatments for pancreatic cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

The donation is in honor of Hal Fetterman’s sister, Joyce Schwyn, and three close friends who lost their lives to pancreatic cancer.

Hal Fetterman, center, was thanked last week by Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president of clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and President Sharon L. Gaber after signing a pledge to give the University $1 million to research pancreatic cancer treatments.

“They were the ones who inspired me to go in this particular direction,” Fetterman said. “There are people passing away from pancreatic cancer all the time. The ultimate goal of this gift would be a cure for the disease.”

The Fetterman’s donation will establish the UT Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Research Innovation Fund. Half of the gift will be dedicated to recruiting a top-tier faculty researcher to the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences. The remaining $500,000 will be split between covering the costs of an upcoming clinical drug trial at UT Medical Center and supporting a grant competition among faculty cancer researchers.

“The University of Toledo is grateful for the incredible generosity of Hal and Susan Fetterman,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “The Fettermans have been loyal supporters of UT for years, and this new investment in the University will support important advances in medical care.”

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare accounting for just 3 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States, but it is to blame for 7 percent of all cancer deaths. According to the National Cancer Institute, only lung cancer and colon cancer kill more Americans than pancreatic cancer.

Dr. F. Charles Brunicardi, the John Howard Endowed Professor of Pancreatic Surgery and director of the cancer program in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, said there is already promising research being done at UT, and the Fettermans’ gift will take it to the next step.

“I’m deeply honored by the Fettermans’ generosity and their devotion toward finding better treatments for pancreatic cancer,” Brunicardi said. “We feel that we’re on the verge of a big breakthrough. We can cure mice of pancreatic cancer. What we need to do now is translate that into clinical trials, and this grant will allow us to do that.”

Fetterman felt it was important that someone make a sizeable donation to draw more attention to the cause and hopefully additional resources to advance treatment options.

“Somebody’s got to break the ice. I think that more people need to get involved with things like this,” Fetterman said. “It’s not necessarily wanting to leave a legacy, but I can’t take it with me. God’s been good to me. I didn’t go to college, and I didn’t have wealthy parents. I’m basically a farm boy from out in Fulton County. I want to do what I can to help people have a better life.”

The Fettermans are longtime supporters of UT. In 2007, the couple donated $1 million to the UT Athletic Department to build an indoor multi-sport practice facility that would ultimately become the Fetterman Training Center. They also established the Scott Raymond Fetterman Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1996 for UT engineering students.