David and Jenny Routh

Like many people, David and Jenny Routh of Chapel Hill don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer.

David and Jenny RouthDavid’s mother is a 25 year breast cancer survivor and Jenny’s brother died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 41, leaving the couple’s nephews without their dad at a young age. Three years ago, David’s best friend died in a battle against lymphoma. “Sitting with my friend night after night in his last few months had a massive impact on me,” David says.

The Rouths admit that they have an insider’s view of UNC Lineberger. Their daughter, Elizabeth, spent 18 months working in Dr. Channing Der’s research lab and was mentored by Dr. Jen Jen Yeh, “who took Elizabeth under her wing and encouraged her to pursue her dreams to become a cancer doctor.” Elizabeth did follow those dreams and is now beginning her medical residency at Johns Hopkins University.

“We have always known that there is extraordinary science at UNC Lineberger, but the people are also clinically remarkable and good people—from Shelley (Earp) throughout the entire organization.” So getting involved with UNC Lineberger by joining the Board of Visitors, “was an opportunity we didn’t even have to think about,” David says.

Jenny notes that they each have different areas where they contribute. Jenny serves on the communications committee and has organizational and event planning experience to offer. David is currently chairing the development committee of the Board of Visitors and lends his expertise in the gift planning area to UNC Lineberger—helping kick off an initiative to increase bequests by announcing that the couple has included the cancer center in their estate plan.

“UNC Lineberger gives people of ordinary means the opportunity to make a huge difference with a planned gift, like a research seed grant,” David notes. “Today’s economic ups and downs have caused people to narrow what they give to and choose their top priorities. The cancer center is the right place for us to focus—it’s personal, it’s groundbreaking science, and the people are extraordinarily caring—from top to bottom. That’s a magical combination.”

The cancer center’s statewide mission is another reason the Rouths are involved, “We are North Carolina natives, we raised our kids here and we are committed to the state. We don’t know of too many things more important to the state than that we are a leader in cancer research and cancer care, and we have a deep commitment to making sure North Carolina is moving ahead and is world class.”

The couple agrees that UNC Lineberger’s work on behalf of the broad citizenship of North Carolina just “adds an overdrive gear” to their commitment.