In honor of the Center's new Nobel laureate, a $1 million challenge gift by Microsoft executive Craig Mundie and his wife, Marie, helped Saturday's 26th annual Hutch Holiday Gala to total proceeds of more than $3.5 million.
The Mundies' contribution and matching donations will launch the Hartwell Innovation Fund, in honor of Dr. Lee Hartwell, Center president and director and recipient Oct. 8 of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Hartwell, who attended the Gala, flew to Sweden two days later and will formally accept the prize on Monday.
Under Hartwell's direction, the fund will allow for rapid responses to new discoveries and the jump-starting of new, life-saving research initiatives.
Donations to match the Mundies' challenge gift allowed the "Help the Hutch" portion of the auction to reach $2.2 million.
Overall, the $3.5 million raised during the Dec. 1 event at the Seattle Sheraton Ballroom - which continually ranks as the Center's and the Pacific Northwest's largest annual fund-raising auction - delighted Alex O'Neill, Hutch director of Guilds and Special Events.
"We were absolutely thrilled we were able to raise $3.5 million, considering the unstable economic climate and what's happening in the world," she said. There's just a lot of uncertainty out there, making things a little more difficult to predict.
"Going into the event, we were feeling very good about the groundwork that had been laid. Our enthusiasm was there, but it was tempered with some uncertainty. People had been feeling kind of hunkered down and in a holding pattern since Sept. 11. The Gala was an opportunity to come out and test the social waters and see what the holiday atmosphere was going to bring.
"I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at the level of festivity and celebration. It was one of the most emotionally touching Galas we have experienced."
Part of the emotion, she said, came from a passionate speech by Michelle Frost, mother of Hutch pediatric cancer survivor Lexi Frost, familiar from her appearances in Center advertisements and publications. "Michelle's presentation was phenomenal," O'Neill said.
Unique items at the Gala, hosted by the Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild, included a day hike and dinner with the Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson and a rare chance to drive away in a 2002 Corvette ZO6 donated by General Motors.
Notably, the Moneytree Corporation contributed $2,500 each time a bid for a live-auction item reached fair-market value and offered a similar challenge during portions of the silent auction. Moneytree's donations reached $129,000.
A drive to seek contributions from Center faculty and senior staff resulted in $500,000 in donations The faculty and senior-staff funds were part of contributions to match the Mundies' $1 million challenge.
The donations from faculty and senior staff were kept secret from Hartwell, who was "speechless" when they were announced, O'Neill said. "I think he was truly touched."