Like many cancer survivors, Chris Gregoire has become a vocal advocate for early detection, prevention and the need for lifesaving research. But unlike other survivors, the former Washington governor has the power to deliver her message to millions of people.
A decade removed from her breast cancer diagnosis and six months after leaving Olympia, Gregoire is among four new members of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s board of trustees to begin their terms July 1.
As a public figure, Gregoire hopes she can leverage her name, relationships and story to drive support for one of the world’s leading cancer research centers.
"We are fundamentally going to go backwards if we as a state and nation are not willing to invest in research," said Gregoire, whose husband, Mike, was also diagnosed with colon cancer more than a year ago. “I can’t think of anything more important right now than to find a cure for cancer through the work at Fred Hutch.”
During her two terms as governor, Gregoire was a strong proponent for investments in life sciences research, which she says can improve public health and increase the state’s economic competitiveness. She established the Life Sciences Discovery Fund using a portion of money Washington received from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a landmark agreement that Gregoire played a key role in achieving while serving as state attorney general.
Saying Washington’s role is to lead in improving health care and research, Gregoire wants to make sure that others know the value of having a top-tier cancer research center in their community. “If we have the Fred Hutch in our backyard, we ought to be investing in life sciences,” she said.
Gregoire joins three others as new members of Fred Hutch’s board of trustees: Theresa “Terry” Gillespie, managing director of Bellevue-based Trilogy Partnership; Matt McIlwain, managing director of the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group; and Norman Metcalfe, former vice chairman and chief financial officer of The Irvine Company in Irvine, Calif.
Cancer and its impact on lives is a common thread among each new board member.
“My mother had cancer and my dad died of cancer, so joining Fred Hutch’s board seemed like a natural fit,” said Gillespie, who is managing director at Trilogy Partnership, an investment partnership with roots in telecommunications.
Gillespie spent more than a decade at Western Wireless Corp., an early cell phone service company, where she held positions ranging from chief financial officer to vice chairman and director. The skills she honed there will enable her to advise Fred Hutch on how to make the most of its financial resources.
“Every organization, profit or nonprofit, needs financial discipline, and I hope to help Fred Hutch stay strong in this area,” she said.
For Matt McIlwain, pursuing cancer breakthroughs is a personal quest – his mother is a breast cancer survivor and his father beat prostate cancer and kidney cancer.
“They were very fortunate, but it brought home the reality that finding better cancer treatments is one of the great challenges of our time,” he said.
McIlwain is managing director of the Madrona Venture Group, which invests in early-stage technology companies. His close ties to those firms, combined with his passion for innovation, give him a unique perspective on how Fred Hutch can create a stronger alliance with the local technology sector.
“There are a lot of information technology innovations that can accelerate cancer research,” McIlwain said. “I hope to help Fred Hutch find new ways to capitalize on those.”
Norm Metcalfe grew up in Seattle and served as the president of the University of Washington Foundation. But the Southern California developer and businessman didn’t have a direct connection with Fred Hutch until he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in the late 1990s.
That’s when his friends at the UW referred him to Dr. Fred Appelbaum, director of Fred Hutch’s Clinical Research Division and one of the world’s top CML experts, for a second opinion. Appelbaum confirmed that Metcalfe’s course of treatment was his best option and ever since the two have been close contacts.
Metcalfe wants to help Fred Hutch make greater inroads with supporters outside the Puget Sound region, provide business acumen to help guide the Center’s management and help make others more aware of the Center’s lifesaving research.
“We ought to think about how we blow the Hutch’s horn a little louder because you’re doing a lot of wonderful work there and it is perhaps not getting the credit it deserves,” Metcalfe said.
In addition to its four new members, Fred Hutch’s board of trustees has appointed new leadership.
Paula Reynolds, former chair and CEO of Safeco and currently is president and CEO of PreferWest, will serve as board chair. Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, has been appointed vice chair. Former board chair Steve Davis, CEO of PATH, is stepping down after more than eight years of board service.
To learn more about the new board of trustees members and leadership, please read the news release.