“The community is only as good as we make it. To keep it great, we all have to participate.”  - Casey Cowell, Traverse City                                       

Cowell Family $5 Million Leadership Gift Launches New Cancer Center

Casey CowellIn late 2011, long-time Traverse City resident Casey Cowell stepped forward with an enormous gift to the community – $5 million for a new cancer center. Munson Medical Center physicians and leaders have identified a cancer center as the next critical need for the region.

A new cancer center has been discussed for nearly a decade, but an economic downturn made it challenging to consider a major capital project. With the commitment of a $5 million lead gift – the philanthropic support that would be required to make the project happen began to seem possible.   

Casey Cowell didn’t simply write a check. He wanted to be involved, and in addition to his family’s tremendous gift, he has encouraged others to support the project. He has personally raised more than $800,000 from other donors who have been moved by his example of generosity.

A Detroit native, Casey co-founded the data communications giant U.S. Robotics in 1976 and served as CEO before the company merged with 3Com in 1997. He and his family have been located in the Traverse City area since 1991. Following are excerpts from an interview with Casey.

Do you have ties to northern Michigan?

My family has been in this area for a long time. We came here when I was growing up. It’s a fantastic area – the seasons are fabulous, the people are great, and the sense of community and the infrastructure we have here is terrific. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family – my three kids are a testament to that.

Why were you interested in helping Munson Medical Center?   

Cowell Family Cancer Center ribbon cuttingWe’re extremely fortunate to have a first class health care provider in the form of Munson Medical Center and everybody benefits from it. The new cancer center project is extremely important for our area. My family and I have reviewed what we could do in health care for a while. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years talking with managers and officers at Munson. They’ve concluded the next piece of the puzzle is a cancer center. I’m pleased and very fortunate that we’re in a position that we can really be involved in the start of this project. We have an absolute gem here that affects everybody. We really need to focus on keeping it great.

Why did you want to support a cancer center, specifically?

Cancer is an insidious disease and it inflicts damage on families and individuals far beyond anything anyone appreciates until they go through it. It’s completely upsetting to people’s lives. I’m a cancer survivor. I had all my treatments here at Munson. I was diagnosed with cancer about six years ago. I have been on the board of two significant hospitals in Chicago and have been involved with health care in other areas. My daughter was a researcher at a major east coast Ivy League medical school, so we’ve had a lot of resources to fall back on. At the end of day, I elected to have all of my treatment here in Traverse City and it’s turned out great so far.

How was your experience with receiving cancer treatment here?

I found wonderful things here. That conclusion was reinforced by health care professionals in many places whom I respect.  I could never find evidence that I should go someplace else for the treatment I needed, and here I am.

If you were satisfied, why do you think we need a new cancer center?

Right now our cancer treatment facilities are little bit scattered. They’re not the way any health care professional in the business of treating cancer would want to have their facility set up. We can do much better than that. The services are great, but we can make it much more convenient and less stressful for patients if we have everything they need under one roof.

Do you see other benefits to a cancer center?

Indirectly it will attract doctors, it will attract businesses, and it will attract professionals. It will continue to set our area apart from other areas with an exclamation point, and I think that’s a wonderful next step for our community.

Overall, what do you think of services at Munson Medical Center?

Having lived in the area for a long time, it would be easy to take for granted how wonderful the health care is here from Munson. I can assure you having lived in other areas and having been around the world that we should not take that for granted. What we have here is extraordinary and we need to dig deep and participate with our time and our dollars to keep it that way.

Why should the community support this project?

We all benefit tremendously from the wonderful community we live in. The community is only as good as we make it. To keep it great, we all have to participate to the utmost of our ability. That’s what my family and I are doing. We’ve got a wonderful place to live and raise our families. With the cancer center, we are on the edge of something great. This is the next big piece of the puzzle. If we can put this in place, we’re in great shape for the future.

Learn More 

To learn how you can help, call 231-213-1150.


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