Hoping to advance new discoveries in prostate cancer treatment and care, longtime Omaha art teacher and businessman Gerald "Jerry" Pabst donated $3 million through an estate gift to support cancer research carried out by the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.
The gift establishes three permanently endowed funds at the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the efforts of prostate cancer researchers and physicians. The funds will be conferred as honorary chairs named after Pabst and his late partner, Bill Bures, who died of prostate cancer. Pabst also lost his father and uncle to prostate cancer.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) will confer a Bill Bures and Jerry Pabst Chair award to three individual prostate cancer specialists, one each to an expert in urologic surgery, radiation oncology and to a specialist in chemotherapy, vaccines or prevention methods. Annual income from the endowed chair funds will be used to support the medical research and patient care of those who are conferred with a Bures-Pabst Chair.
Pabst died in 2016 due to complications of esophageal cancer. While planning this gift some years ago, he told the university he believes an investment in people at the cancer center will someday pay high dividends.
"I realize it just doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m hoping this research will bring us closer to discovering new cancer treatments and possibly a cure," he said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer in men. In Nebraska, it’s the third most-diagnosed cancer behind breast and lung cancers. While a serious disease, a majority of men in Nebraska are diagnosed early, providing an opportunity for successful treatment options.
"We’re extremely thankful for the generosity of Jerry Pabst and Bill Bures, and the endowed chairs in their honor will absolutely help to expand our expertise in researching and treating prostate cancer," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. "This perpetual financial support will benefit our mission to transform lives through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care."
Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, said recruiting national leaders in cancer research is essential to the cancer center’s success. Endowed faculty positions that provide long-term financial support strengthen UNMC’s ability to do so.
"Jerry’s gift is truly visionary in its support of our future needs," said Dr. Cowan soon after first meeting Pabst and learning about his plans to support cancer research and care. "Funding for endowed chairs is significant to an academic medical center, as the income generated from each will enable us to recruit and retain a renowned physician-researcher."
In his obituary, The Omaha World-Herald said Jerry Pabst "never stopped to take a break" and that he "worked tirelessly" to provide quality art courses to students in Omaha Public Schools during his 31 years as district art coordinator.
Pabst was a native of Colby, Kansas, and the son of Herman and Lucille Pabst. He graduated from Kansas State University and then received a master’s degree from Fort Hays State University. He was hired by Omaha Public Schools as an art teacher and was later promoted to district art coordinator.
He helped introduce discipline-based teaching to the art program in 1986 with the aid of grant money from the Getty Center. The style integrated art history into regular art courses for students from kindergarten to high school. He also advocated for students to receive more time for art classes.
Pabst and his companion, William "Bill" Bures, founded Collector’s Choice in Omaha in 1969, a business providing premier estate sales services and an antique sales showroom in the former Center Theater.
Bures was a native of Geneva, Neb., and the son of Frank and Helen Bures. After high school he attended business school before working for Gold’s department store and Ben Simons clothing store in Lincoln, where he managed the men’s department for many years. He retired from clothing retail in 1991 to devote time to Collector’s Choice.
Bures died on Feb. 2, 2005, at age 61 from complications of prostate cancer, and Pabst died on Aug. 26, 2016, at age 79 from complications of esophageal cancer.
The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center - a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center - is a collaboration of Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The cancer center opened in 2017 with cancer research at the Suzanne and Walter Scott Cancer Research Tower and clinical treatments at the C.L. Werner Cancer Hospital.
Writer: Robb Crouch, University of Nebraska Foundation