There. That’s better.
It was pretty bumpy there for a while, but what amounts to a peace treaty between the University of Utah and the Huntsman Cancer Institute was announced Thursday. It promises a future in which two of the state’s major institutions can work together on what has always been, really, their common goal: to conquer cancer.
Disputes over management, money and personnel boiled over back in April when the CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Mary Beckerle, was abruptly fired by U. President David Pershing and the then-director of the U. Health Care System, Vivian Lee.
But Beckerle had and retained the support of the HCI, particularly its founder and prime benefactor, Jon Huntsman Sr. After some tense back-and-forth, Beckerle was reinstated, Lee resigned and Pershing, who had already been planning to retire, moved up the date of his departure.
Pershing, though, was part of the eventual settlement that, among other things, places Beckerle (and her successors) directly under the university president on the organization chart. It also reinforced the university’s financial obligations under existing contracts.
And, judging by the atmosphere ofThursday’s announcement, both sides fortified their indefinite partnership.
The U. will pay HCI $68 million, over time, settling a difference of opinion over which institution owed what to the other. In return, the family’s Huntsman Cancer Foundation pledges to raise $120 million in new donations as well as endow 12 new faculty chairs.
This is very good news all around. Not only will the work of the HCI to fight and cure cancer now be able to continue without the cloud of all that fighting hanging over it, but the settlement also holds the promise of setting an example for this and other public/private partnerships.
Any number of good causes, from fighting poverty to the arts, can benefit from a unity of purpose joining an established public institution — such as the U. — and a private business or charity — such as HCI — for purposes that are beneficial not only to the parties directly involved but also to the community as a whole.
There is a risk that the people who lead such public and private institutions, by definition accomplished people who may be used to getting things done their way, might clash. That their disputes might undermine everyone’s overarching missions and what should be benefits to the community as a whole.
After a lot of tense and intensive negotiations among the parties, that cloud has been removed from the future of both HCI and the University of Utah.
Now, everybody, back to work.
Editor’s note: Paul Huntsman, son of Jon Huntsman Sr., is the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune