A transformational $126 million gift propels Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center into a new era of cancer treatment
By Priyanka Sinha
Stephen D. Nimer, M.D.
decades-long relationship has led to a landmark gift of $126 million to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. The extraordinary donation — the single largest in the university’s 95-year history — will accelerate breakthroughs in finding cures for cancer, expand innovative cancer treatment options for patients, and further propel Sylvester’s standing as one of the nation’s preeminent cancer centers.
The unrestricted gift was made in honor of Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester, the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, and professor of medicine, biochemistry, and molecular biology at the Miller School.
“I am truly humbled by the magnitude of this gift,” Dr. Nimer said. “I never expected to experience such immense generosity for simply answering the call to serve those in need.”
The gift is an anonymous bequest from a member of a family Dr. Nimer has known for decades. When facing several health challenges, including cancer, the family and those in their immediate networks turned to Dr. Nimer for guidance and support.
“I’ve dedicated my life to excellence and serving the well-being of others, and I now want to honor this donor,” Dr. Nimer said. “With a gift of this size, it is our goal to maximize its impact, ensuring we invest in programs and people who can change outcomes for as many patients as possible. That will mean a legacy that lasts for generations to come.”
Recognized as one of the world’s premier leukemia and stem cell transplant researchers and clinicians, Dr. Nimer led the multiyear effort to secure National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation in 2019, making Sylvester the only NCI-designated cancer center in South Florida and one of only two in Florida.
Affirmation of extraordinary vision and leadership
“Sylvester is a leader in cancer care and research, and this tremendous act of generosity will have a profound impact on our work in this field,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk. “The gift is an affirmation of the extraordinary vision and leadership of Dr. Stephen D. Nimer and our talented and passionate team of researchers, clinicians, faculty, and staff who are changing the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.”
To maximize the donation’s impact, the anonymous gift will serve as a matching gift to leverage additional donations of $1 million or more to Sylvester. To date, philanthropists — including The Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research, Paul J. DiMare and the DiMare family, Steven Dwoskin (Dwoskin Charitable Trust Foundation), Eric and Elizabeth Feder, and Annette de la Renta — have met the challenge, donating $21 million in total, to accelerate innovative cancer research and bolster endowment funds for faculty chairs.
This matching program will also establish a strong pool of resources for necessary infrastructure investments, including a new research facility to foster leading-edge scientific discovery and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Based on the donor’s previous interest in Dr. Nimer’s research priorities, part of the gift will be dedicated to advancing research in cancer epigenetics and Sylvester’s experimental therapeutics program.
“This will help the people in this community get greater access to more novel treatments,” Dr. Nimer said. “With expanded treatment options and opportunities to develop more cures, our patients can benefit from this landmark gift to our cancer center. ”
Attracting top-tier scientists and clinicians
The gift has already allowed Sylvester to recruit a leader in the field of experimental therapeutics who will build on the program’s breakthrough impact on cancer care. Funds from the donation will support Sylvester’s continued efforts to attract and retain top-tier scientists and clinicians.
“What is most exciting about this gift is the tremendous impact it will have on cancer care for the people of South Florida,” said Hilarie Bass, chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees. It will substantially enhance the research that takes place at Sylvester and lead to enhanced treatment options. Ultimately, anyone seeking cancer care at Sylvester is the true beneficiary.”
Jayne S. Malfitano, a member of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, and vice chair of Sylvester Board of Overseers, said, “Sylvester’s preeminent national reputation is due in part to the single-minded dedication our physician-scientists have to those they serve. It is this compassion and excellence for care that makes Sylvester so special.”
Malfitano, who is also the president of the Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation board, added, “The donor saw in our institution — and in Dr. Nimer, in particular — the conviction and talent required to alleviate the suffering of so many battling cancer. I am grateful for the trust they had in our work.”
Malfitano’s involvement with Sylvester dates back more than 35 years, when her father, Harcourt Sylvester, Jr., ﬁrst pledged a multimillion-dollar naming gift to the University of Miami to build a cancer center in honor of his parents.
Today, Sylvester — part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine — combines the strength of more than 300 cancer experts and researchers. Sylvester discovers, develops, and delivers groundbreaking targeted therapies, providing next-generation clinical care.
Support Sylvester’s quest to eradicate cancer today.