Breaking: Mary Beckerle reinstated as Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO after protests, petition

Mary Beckerle. Photo: University of Utah Health Care

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 25, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — After a closed-door meeting at the University of Utah, the president’s office released a statement saying that Mary Beckerle — booted last week as CEO and director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute — will be reinstated immediately.

Beckerle had been informed of her firing last week in an email. Shortly afterward, all her staff and colleagues were also informed by email. No reason was given for the dismissal of Beckerle, who is widely credited with improving the success and raising the public and industry profile of the institute during her 11 years in the job.

President David Pershing’s statement on Beckerle’s reinstatement reads:

This past week has been an extraordinary and challenging time for our University and community. Members of our campus community spoke out and made their perspectives known. 
 
It is now time, I believe, to return to our mission of serving our students, caring for our patients and pursuing critical research. In that spirit, I am pleased to confirm that Dr. Mary Beckerle will, effective immediately, resume her service as the CEO and Director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) with authority over its cancer research, clinical care, and administrative functions. Dr. Beckerle, a Distinguished Professor of Biology, has led the Institute for 11 years. Under her leadership its scope and stature have increased greatly with the award of Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, the highest recognition afforded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and one that is reserved for only a handful of elite cancer centers in the United States. Effective today we have changed HCI’s reporting structure, and Dr. Beckerle will report directly to the President of the University. I am very grateful for her committed leadership and look forward to working with her in the coming years.
 
We reaffirm our shared commitment to maintain the Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center and site of world-class patient care, cancer research and education. We appreciate the great work of our health care professionals, staff and faculty and confirm our support for them going forward. We also acknowledge our patients and their families for their bravery and their partnership in our fight against cancer. I regret any disruption to the Huntsman Cancer Institute community whose work is so important to the people of Utah and, increasingly, our nation.
 
The University of Utah is now working with the Huntsman family on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with the goal of reaffirming the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s role as an integrated and collaborative part of the University, while maintaining HCI’s strategic autonomy required for it to thrive as a highly ranked Comprehensive Cancer Center.  
 
We want to again thank the Huntsman family for their major financial commitments to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and especially Jon Huntsman, Sr., for his vision, energy and passion for finding ways to cure this terrible disease. We are excited about the June 21st opening of HCI’s newest facility, the Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center, which will enable our faculty and staff to accelerate their groundbreaking research into cures for cancer.

After Beckerle’s firing last week, staff and faculty members immediately launched protests and a petition campaign asking her reinstatement, and threatening to leave the institution for other lucrative offers.

Some former patients also protested outside the office of U of U president Pershing, some saying they owned their recovery in large part to the environment she had created at the institute and among faculty members.

Jon S. Huntsman, Sr. Photo: Wikipedia

Businessman Jon Huntsman Sr., whose donations helped found the cancer institute in 1993 and who continues to offer funding, said last week that the firing was abrupt, and that he planned to file lawsuits against those behind what he called a horrible and unethical act.

Huntsman said he also was informed of the firing by email, and reportedly said he was “dumbfounded.”

To see what pro-Beckerle protesters last week had to say, click on the player below. 

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