It looks like the University”s Cancer Center will remain nameless and will not be receiving a $13.3 million gift from a local donor, as the University refused to name the center after the donor. Although Farmington Hills businessman Raj Vattikuti will not confirm or deny the allegation that he withdrew his generous offer because the University refused to name the cancer center after him, center director Max Wicha confirmed the story. Wicha explained that the University denied Vattikuti”s request for the naming because that would require a donation of a much greater size, like the $56 million it took to name of the cancer center at Vanderbilt University or the $225 million for the name of the cancer center at the University of Utah. The University did, however, offer to name a smaller cancer program after Vattikuti, but he refused. So much for altruism now that charity has an agenda and a cancer center has a price tag on its name.
When did the joy of giving become the joy of having one”s name in lights? Perhaps donations like this are part of good business strategy or a symbol of ultimate success, but good deeds even of the $13.3 million-type based in such reasoning are undermined by the underlying self-interest. When a generous offer is withdrawn because the donor will not get enough publicity, the gift loses all glory and becomes an ugly demand, a failed business transaction. It becomes a man trying to buy the rights to name the University”s cancer center after himself, not a man trying to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. Will Vattikuti adopt another pet cause? One where his donation is simply more visible? The significance of the gift is muddled when the giver”s motivation is selfish.
Yes, we all like to be lauded and praised for our good deeds, but it is a childish need, a juvenile requirement that undermines the value of our actions. The magnitude of what Vattikuti”s charitable offer could accomplish is immeasurable. The number of people he could help is absolutely huge and he could help those people in incredible ways. Perhaps his money would fund new research programs or procedures for patients who could not afford them. The possibilities are endless and exciting he could be a part of saving lives. Is there a greater honor? Saving even one life or improving the life of one cancer patient will always be a greater accomplishment than simply having one”s name decorate the University”s cancer center.
As hospitals and medical centers across the country struggle to raise money, donors continue to make more demands. Donors trying to leave a mark on the medical world should control important aspects of their gifts such as distribution and purpose, not petty issues like name recognition. The situation screams clichs about actions speaking louder than words and speaking softly while carrying a big stick. The name of a medical center is unimportant to patients, doctors, nurses and families, but its services and care are vital. Donors especially those with resources as large as $13.3 million must understand that their donations could save millions of lives and are worth far more than just cheap recognition.
Mr. Vattikuti, I sincerely hope you rethink your decision to withdraw your generous donation to the cancer center. Make a difference in lives of cancer patients don”t just make a name for yourself.
Lauren Strayer, Daily Editorial Writer