UAMS Celebrates Fords’ $1 Million Gift for Cancer Center Expansion

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A major expansion of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) received a $1 million boost Thursday from Joe and Jo Ellen Ford of Little Rock.


The Fords pledged the money toward the 288,000-square-foot expansion to the ACRC that is set to begin this year. The announcement came during a news conference at the state Capitol to introduce the new director of the ACRC and discuss a proposal to help pay for the expansion with state funds to match up to $50 million in private donations.


Ford, chairman of the board of Little Rock-based Alltel Corp. and a former state senator, stepped forward at the end of the news conference and said he and his wife would give the first million toward the match.


Joe and Jo Ellen Ford have been longtime supporters of UAMS and its Centers of Excellence. Jo Ellen Ford is a member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board and founding member of the ACRC Foundation Board of Directors and the ACRC Auxiliary. In addition, she was instrumental in founding the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at UAMS and is one of only two lifetime members of its Community Advisory Board. The Jo Ellen Ford Auditorium at the Reynolds Institute is named to honor her leadership and volunteer work there.


“We are grateful to Joe and Jo Ellen Ford for showing their commitment to UAMS and our plans for the cancer center expansion,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “This inspired donation gives us momentum toward building a cancer center that will be able to care for patients for many years to come and provide a home to researchers pushing the boundaries of science toward new treatments.”


Peter D. Emanuel, M.D., was named the new executive director for the ACRC, effective July 1. Emanuel comes to the ACRC from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he served as acting director of its Comprehensive Cancer Center from 2004-2006 and is a professor in the UAB Departments of Medicine, Genetics and Biochemistry.


A bill has been introduced in the Arkansas Senate to create the UAMS Cancer Research Center Matching Fund to fund the expansion and endowments for the center. The expansion will not only add clinic and laboratory space, it will allow the expansion of research and treatment programs at the facility, which opened in 1989.


Senate Bill 381 is sponsored by Sen. Paul Bookout of Jonesboro and would create a fund to match private donations dollar for dollar. Rep. Eddie Cooper of Melbourne, chairman of the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, is the lead sponsor in the House.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,430 students and 715 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. For more information, visit