Wayne D. Kuni and Joshi Alumkal, M.D., never met, but their legacies are forever linked through the newest endowed chair at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
The $2.5 million gift establishing the Wayne D. Kuni & Joan E. Kuni Foundation Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer further honors the foundation’s nearly decade-long relationship with Alumkal, an associate professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
On February 28, 2018, Alumkal was honored in a special ceremony as the inaugural holder of the endowed chair, and the Kuni Foundation was lauded for its additional $5 million gift to support the launch of a lung research center at the Knight.
“Part of Wayne Kuni's legacy to our community is his commitment to mentoring,” said Angela Hult, President of the Kuni Foundation. “He created space and opportunities for people to think boldly while acting compassionately and the Kuni Foundation's support of emerging leaders like Joshi is a direct reflection of Wayne's intentions for our community.”
A legacy of mentorship
Wayne Kuni’s commitment to mentorship was immediately clear when Greg Goodwin, board chair of the Kuni Foundation, met Kuni for the first time in 1990. Goodwin walked into Kuni’s office, expecting 15 minutes to make an introduction and briefly chat about the car industry. But after two hours of rich conversation Goodwin emerged from Kuni’s office knowing that their relationship would grow into something special.
Eighteen months after that first meeting, Kuni and Goodwin founded Kuni Lexus in Denver, adding another dealership under the already-booming Kuni Automotive umbrella. Today, operating as Holman Automotive after a 2016 acquisition by Holman Enterprises, the company employs more than 6,000 workers at 36 dealerships nationwide.
Wayne Kuni (with shovel) at the groundbreaking of his first dealership, Kuni Cadillac, in 1969. (Used with permission from Holman Automotive.)
Goodwin credits much of Kuni Automotive’s success to Wayne Kuni’s commitment to mentorship and engagement. “For both of us, I think, giving to our community was in our DNA. The community was the source of our success,” said Goodwin. “Wayne loved to see people be successful – he loved to mentor.”
Kuni’s mentorship extended beyond the walls of his dealerships and into the community. Sitting on dozens of boards and executive committees during his lifetime, Kuni developed a reputation as a community leader with a giving spirit. Toward the end of his life, Kuni began to consider how to establish a more enduring legacy.
“When Wayne got his third cancer diagnosis, we began to talk in earnest about what would happen after he was gone,” said Goodwin. Kuni opted to transfer his shares of Kuni Automotive to a charitable trust, establishing the Kuni Foundation in November 2005. On February 3, 2006, Kuni passed away from cancer.
“A philanthropic venture capital opportunity”
In the years since Kuni’s death, the Kuni Foundation has transformed into one of the largest foundations in Portland and southwest Washington. Staying true to Kuni’s legacy, the foundation identifies and seeks out early-career researchers like Alumkal.
Alumkal has a close relationship with the Kuni Foundation, having previously received a Kuni Foundation Clinical Trial Award and recognition as one of three Kuni Scholars from the Pacific Northwest. These important seed grants enabled Alumkal to successfully compete for several NIH grant awards.
“Running a laboratory and a research program is like running a business, and it takes teamwork to succeed,” Alumkal said, a sentiment that Kuni would have undoubtedly embraced.
Goodwin notes that the mission of the foundation is mirrored by the new endowed chair. “The foundation is a philanthropic venture capital opportunity, identifying prominent researchers and helping to sustain them,” he said.
Alumkal recognizes that philanthropy is an essential component of funding research. Noting that only one in 10 grants are funded by the NIH, he suggests that “the endowed chair is like having a stable line of credit that we can count on each year.” He added, “Having the unrestricted use of income from the endowed chair for research will enable us to tackle the most pressing questions we face in the clinic using high risk/high reward approaches.”
Goodwin acknowledges the significance of Kuni’s beneficence and foresight: “Joshi is the perfect representation of what we are trying to do as the Kuni Foundation.”
Read about Dr. Alumkal's reaction to receiving the endowed chair on the OHSU news hub.
Read the Kuni Foundation's announcement about the organization's $7.5 million investment in cancer research at OHSU.
Learn about establishing an endowed fund at OHSU.