PORTLAND, Ore. — When Laurie Kelley began as chief philanthropy officer for Providence in Oregon, little did she know that her husband would be diagnosed with cancer and in need of intense care. Michael “Mike” Kelley died in October 2020 after a 22-month battle with stage IV head and neck cancer. His family and friends wanted to honor his memory by supporting further research at Providence Cancer Institute where he received his care. The institute is now announcing the Michael Kelley Endowed Chair for Cancer Research.
Kelley was a community leader and volunteer, a successful attorney at the law firm Haglund Kelley, and a long-time supporter of non-profit organizations and Catholic high school education and sports. He was also a father of four and grandfather of three. When Mike got his diagnosis on Christmas Eve in 2018, the Kelleys turned to world-class experts at Providence Cancer Institute. Like thousands of patients cared for by Providence, Mike’s doctors suggested he participate in clinical trials searching for new treatments, specifically in the area of immunotherapy. This newly endowed chair in his name will guarantee new research that will push the boundaries in Providence’s focus on immunotherapy.
The $2 million endowed chair was funded by gifts of $1 million each from Mark and Kathy Parker and from Darlene Shiley. Kathy is a community volunteer and Mark is executive chairman and former president and CEO of Nike. Darlene is president of The Shiley Foundation and a long-time patron of the arts, medical research and education.
“It is generous donors like Mark, Kathy and Darlene who believe in our commitment to finish cancer and who are moved by Mike’s courageous fight that will help us find cures and treatments,” said Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., director of cancer research, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, and chief medical officer, Robert W. Franz Cancer Center of the Providence Cancer Institute. “Cancer is a disease that touches all of us and gifts like these help fund cancer research and improve cancer care.”
"We are grateful for the opportunity to help in the continuation of research and clinical trials,” said Mark and Kathy Parker. “Our hope is that this endowed chair will support research that fills the gaps that exist in treatment for many cancers. It’s a privilege to continue to push forward in Mike’s honor, because he was always looking ahead and ever selfless."
“I was fortunate to have known Mike and the Kelley family long before his cancer diagnosis,” said Shiley. “I watched his battle, his courage, and his resolve to help find cures through his participation in the clinical trials he was able to enter. I’m honored to be able to contribute to the world class research at Providence Cancer Institute that will continue to work tirelessly in the battle against cancer in the name of my dear friend, Mike Kelley.”
Providence Cancer Institute’s Marka Crittenden, M.D., Ph.D., and a member of Mike’s care team, has been named the recipient of the Michael Kelley Endowed Chair for Cancer Research. Endowed chairs enable research institutes to recruit and retain the best scientist leaders. The endowment will allow Dr. Crittenden and her team to hire additional scientists, conduct leading-edge cancer research and provide new treatments for patients with cancer.
“This also will allow us to teach the techniques we learn here to people all over the world,” said Dr. Crittenden. “They will go back to their own countries, back to their own universities, back to their own communities and really broaden the impact of our research.”
Dr. Crittenden is director of Translational Radiation Research, co-leader of the Integrated Therapies Lab at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute, and a radiation oncologist with The Oregon Clinic. As a physician scientist trained in both radiation oncology and immunology, Dr. Crittenden works to develop new immunotherapies for cancer.
“There are moments you have with a patient when you have run out of options to offer them and it’s a horrible feeling, running out of options,” said Dr. Crittenden. “Research motivates me: I’ve got to go back to the lab, I have to figure out a new option, I have to find something else that’s better that we can offer these patients. That’s what keeps me going. It’s very special to know the research I am doing to improve lives of cancer patients will be done in honor of Mike.”
“Every person we care for at Providence has a story with their family and community and how they give back,” said Laurie. “Mike loved to help people, and he was always volunteering for non-profits or coaching one of the kids’ sports teams. It’s that spirit of service in Mike and everyone who is cared for that we want to honor.”
Providence Cancer Institute currently has more than 400 active clinical trials in key areas such as cancers of the: breast, colon/rectum, prostate, lung, esophagus, liver and pancreas, head and neck, ovary, skin and blood. Other studies are investigating treatments for COVID-19.
Although the initial phase of the endowed chair has been funded, Providence Foundations of Oregon continues to seek additional support to further the important work of this endowed chair. To learn more and make a donation, visit www.ProvidenceFoundations.org/mikekelley.