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    TIM PEELER: Unveiling Jimmy V-NC State Partnership
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH, N.C. There are so many things that excite Nick Valvano about the Jimmy V-NC State Cancer Therapeutics Training Program, which was approved Friday morning by the NC State Board of Trustees.

     

    Foremost, it provides the opportunity for young students from high school to undergraduates to graduate students to get on a path towards cancer research. He believes his late brother, former NC State basketball coach and athletics director Jim Valvano, would be proud of that.

     

    It is also the chance for NC State and the V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded by Jim Valvano just months before he died on April 28, 1993, to collaborate on cutting-edge research to fulfill Valvano’s dying wish to find a cure for cancer.

     

    Finally, it creates a permanent seal on the gaping hole that once divided the school and the Valvano family, which occurred after Jim Valvano was dismissed following the 1990 basketball season.

     

    “You would have to have blinders on not to think that,” said Nick Valvano, the chief executive officer of the V Foundation since 1995. “As time goes on, you remember all the good, and not as much of the bad. That is certainly the case. What is really good about this is that I think we were able to find something at NC State that fits with the mission of the V Foundation. We are not just throwing something together just to have Jim’s name on it at NC State.”

     

    The prospects for this partnership date back at least five years, when Nick Valvano and then-NC State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox had a conversation about creating a research project funded by the V Foundation. Fox had reached out to the Valvano family and the V Foundation, and in 2001, the NC State Board of Trustees issued a “healing proclamation” that recognized Jim Valvano’s achievements as head basketball coach and athletics director.

     

    Nick Valvano just wasn’t convinced there was a significant amount of cancer research going on at NC State to justify a significant grant from the V Foundation, which has raised more than $70 million for cancer research in the last decade and a half. Much of that money has gone to grant to fund young scientists just starting their careers in cancer research. But there were also significant grants given to both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, including a $2 million joint partnership for breast cancer research.

     

    “I felt if we would do something at NC State, it would look convoluted,” Valvano said.

     

    That was before Valvano met John Cavanagh, NC State professor of molecular and structural biochemistry who put together the current partnership, drawing from the entire NC State research community. It includes grants from the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, fitting perfectly into current NC State Chancellor James Oblinger’s mission to include every part of the campus community.

     

    “It’s a helluva collaboration,” Valvano said. “What is so exciting is that it plays to one of the incredible strengths of NC State, its science programs. Our scientific advisory board has been talking for years about how we can do something to get young students who like science into careers of cancer research.

     

    “This, we hope, will be our AAU ball.”

     

    Just like with high school basketball players who play AAU basketball, this gets students involved at a young age, keeps them engaged throughout their college careers and sets them on a path toward cancer research.

     

    Valvano also said that the timing was finally right for such a partnership, coming in the same month that the school celebrated the 25th anniversary of Jim Valvano’s crowning achievement, the Wolfpack’s 1983 NCAA Championship, and within a few days of the 15th anniversary of his death.

     

    “Timing is always key,” Valvano said. “The timing is right in our funding to do this kind of program, and the timing is right for what is happening at NC State.”

     

    In 2001, the NC State Board of Trustees issued what Fox called a “healing resolution,” which recognized the importance of Jim Valvano’s accomplishments as the Wolfpack’s basketball coach and athletics director.

     

    “For me, that was an incredible, incredible gesture,” Valvano said.

     

    And with the announcement of the partnership, Jim Valvano will have a permanent legacy at NC State, to go along with the lasting efforts of the V Foundation.

     

    “I will tell you, this will be the proudest thing I have ever done with the V Foundation,” Valvano said. “Of all the projects we have funded and all the careers we have begun, I’ll be most proud of this.”

     

    For more information about the V Foundation’s funding of cancer research projects and to find out about contributing to the Jimmy V-NC State Cancer Training Therapeutics Program, visit www.jimmyv.org or contact the NC State Office of University Development at (919) 513-4412.

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

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