The Butch Walts and Donald Skinner Urologic Cancer Research Foundation, which has supported cutting-edge research in the urologic cancer program of the USC Institute of Urology and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center for more than three decades, has been dissolved, with nearly $11 million in assets transferred to the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Of those funds, $5 million will establish the Shirley and Donald G. Skinner MD Endowed Chair of Urologic Cancer Surgery, $5.58 million will establish the Butch Walts and Donald G. Skinner MD Cancer Research Endowment, and $342,000 will complete the funding of the Gary Lieskovsky MD Endowed Fellowship in Urologic Oncology.

Donald Skinner

The foundation was the brain child of Donald Skinner, MD, who served as Professor and Chair of the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology from 1980 to 2009. In 1981, Skinner began soliciting funds from former patients to raise money to develop the department and its research program. There was no mechanism within the university at the time that would allow donor money to accrue interest until it was spent and so he decided to start a foundation where those funds could appreciate.

Around the same time, Butch Walts, a professional tennis player who Skinner cured of advanced testicular cancer, contacted the department with an offer to help raise funds. He organized a series of celebrity tennis tournaments to raise money for the foundation that drew the sport’s biggest names including John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Billy Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Since 1982, the foundation has contributed nearly $9 million to support urologic cancer research at USC Norris. The money typically was used to support established research and to provide critical seed money to start promising research that led to millions more from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

The foundation, Skinner said, provided great flexibility and was critically important to the development of the urology program at USC into one of the top urology departments in the country.

— Hope Hamashige