Longtime Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center philanthropist and community leader Sally Skinner Behnke passed away Dec. 12 after complications from a stroke. She was 90.
Behnke, former chairman of the Fred Hutch board of trustees, was the mother of former Hutch board member Carl Behnke, who currently serves as co-chair of the Hutch board of ambassadors. He is also vice chair of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the cancer care arm of the Hutch, University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Children’s.
“Sally’s guidance and generosity really helped philanthropy get off the ground at the Hutch,” said Dr. Larry Corey, president and director of the Hutch. “Over the years her donations inspired others to give millions to support our lifesaving research.”
‘We have lost a longtime member of the Fred Hutch family’
Behnke led by example and contributed to Fred Hutch in a host of essential ways, said Nancy Greenwood Vehrs, senior director of Philanthropic Gifts.
“We have lost a longtime member of the Fred Hutch family,” she said. “Sally believed in the power of research and partnered with the Hutch for many years as a board member, volunteer and philanthropist. She was a great leader and encouraged her son, Carl, to continue the Behnke family tradition of support for Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.”
A lifelong Seattle resident and alumna of the University of Washington, Behnke’s many achievements include serving on the Hutch board of trustees and taking a leadership role in the organization’s capital campaigns. She received the Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild Award for her service to the Hutch.
She also was the first woman to serve on the board of Washington Mutual and was a past board chair at Seattle Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (now Seattle Children’s), past president of the UW Alumni Association, a founding member and past president of the Northwest School for Hearing Impaired Children and an active fundraiser for Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
A leader in the Seattle community
In 2001 she received the Isabel Colman Award for Excellence in Community Service from the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County for her significant and broad-based community leadership.
“In addition to her impressive community service, Sally Behnke took the time to encourage others in the early stages of their professional development,” said Myra Tanita, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fred Hutch, who was one of many grateful recipients of Behnke’s guidance and inspiration.
In recognizing Behnke as an outstanding Washington citizen, Sen. Patty Murray called her work inspiring and her words encouraging in a post on the website of the Sunlight Foundation in 2001. “She said, ‘Take care of your home. Look around at this wonderful, wonderful place that is yours and mine. And if you haven’t already, find a little corner of it to give your heart to.’”
In addition to Carl Behnke, she is survived by her son John Benke and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her husband, Robert Joseph Behnke, and her son Robert Edward (Ned) Behnke preceded her in death.