$5 million gift clears the way for expansion of USC/Norris

by Chrissie Castro
Donor Kendall E. (Butch) Nungesser and USC/Norris Director Peter Jones display a drawing of the new tower

Kendall E. (Butch) Nungesser says he has cardinal and gold in his blood, and Allene Nungesser says that USC is a thread in the fabric of her life.

Combine these sentiments with a strong advocacy for cancer research, and you have the reason they donated $5 million to the construction of the Harlyne J. Norris Research Tower at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Nungesser donation put the final cap on the funds needed for the preliminary stages of construction of the tower.

When completed, the tower will accommodate new scientists and physicians in a space solely dedicated to cancer research. It will be built next to the USC/Norris Cancer Center's Norman Topping Tower on the corner of Eastlake Avenue and Biggy Street.

While neither Nungesser has had a personal encounter with the USC/Norris Cancer Center, they say they have heard great things about the center from family and friends and believe that it is a worthwhile cause to champion.

"The USC/Norris Cancer Center takes great pride in providing personalized attention to each patient," Butch said. "The whole staff­from doctors to nurses­takes great pride in their care. Should I ever be afflicted with cancer, that is meaningful to me."

But that's just one part of Butch's belief in the excellence of USC. He is an alumnus of the USC Marshall School of Business and played football for the university from 1965-69.

"I was on teams at 'SC at a time when we had two Heisman Trophy winners and went to three Rose Bowls," Butch said. "When you participate in a team like that I think you develop stronger ties to the university."

His grandmother­who graduated in 1919­his aunt, father, mother and sister were all Trojan alumni as well. "I used to go to USC football games when I was a youngster so I had a lot of cardinal and gold in my blood," he said. "I also went through the trials and tribulations of cancer. It's really a coupling of the cause and the university that created the motivation behind the gift."

Allene Nungesser also had many reasons for her support of the tower. "I myself am a cancer survivor, so I have been very much a part of wanting to see positive things happen in the field." She feels strongly about advances in cancer research as a former patient and as a former health care professional. "It's an important issue for me," she said and added that many people close to her have battled the disease.

Like Butch, Allene Nungesser is an alumna. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 1970 and a Master of Arts degree from the USC School of Public Administration, with a special emphasis on health care in 1972.

She also comes from a cardinal and gold background. "Many of my family members have been active in the USC Trojan Family," she said. "USC is part of the thread of my life. It's part of the fabric."

The completion of the tower is still hinged on receiving an additional $49 million within the next 12 months. But when completed, the tower will be one of the strongest facilities in the U.S. for research into urological malignancies. "Given my 'SC background and understanding of the great accomplishments of the USC/Norris Cancer Center over the years, I'm a great supporter of the Norris cancer cause," Butch said. "I'm a great supporter of the research."

Allene Nungesser added: "I can't think of a better way to use the resources I have. It makes me feel fortunate if I can in any way be part of the cure."