Cancer Center, Supporters Offer Assurances on Prouty Money

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2017 12:19:53 AM
Modified: 2/18/2017 12:20:06 AM

Lebanon — Norris Cotton Cancer Center leaders and supporters are offering new assurances that money raised through the Prouty, the center’s key annual fundraising event, will be used only to pay for cancer research and patient services

An op-ed in today’s Valley News by Chris Amos, interim director of the center, and Shelley Gilbert, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, the group that organizes the Prouty, includes a pledge that supporters’ donations will be used only for certain activities related to research and patient care.

“We have precisely defined donor intent,” Gilbert said. “That had not happened before.”

The op-ed also points to governance guidelines written into a new agreement between Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College that clarify the authority of the center’s director.

The announcement of the new pledge to donors and governance document came after months of controversy about D-H’s use of Prouty donations, the contentious departure of the center’s longtime leader and the scheduling of this year’s event for July 7-8. The Prouty annually attracts widespread participation from Upper Valley residents who bicycle or walk after lining up donors who pledge to contribute money.

In their op-ed, Gilbert and Amos say that all donations to the friends organization will be spent to “advance cancer research, improve cancer treatment protocols, develop strategies for cancer prevention (or) provide supportive services for patients with cancer and their families.” Money may also be used to “facilitate otherwise unfunded endeavors in cancer research, education, and translation of research from science to patients,” they wrote.

That language had been reviewed by an attorney for the friends organization, Gilbert said.

Gilbert and Amos wrote that their pledge will resolve an issue that was raised in a Jan. 27 letter from Thomas Donovan, the director of charitable trusts unit in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Donovan concluded that D-H had not violated the law in 2015 when it spent money from donors on “salary, equipment and occupancy costs associated with” research.

But using the money to pay operating expenses wasn’t popular with some event backers.

“The timing and details of how certain funds were expended in 2015 were not exactly as we had planned,” Gilbert and Amos wrote.

Donovan’s letter showed center managers and supporters “that we needed to more precisely define where and how the money we raise is to be spent,” Gilbert and Amos wrote.

The new agreement also “in no uncertain terms, gives the Cancer Center director the authority for making sure that donor intent is honored in the use of all philanthropic funds, including those raised by the Friends,” they wrote.

Donors’ money also will be placed in restricted accounts, Amos said in an interview. Such accounts are commonly used by nonprofits to separate funds so that donations can be spent for purposes designated by donors or governing bodies.

The pledge and new governance contract sounded like “a move in the right direction” to Daniel Wolf, of Newbury, N.H., a Prouty participant who had been critical of D-H’s use of some donor money.

“The devil is in the details,” Wolf added. “As long as there is a commitment that the funds that are raised should be used for research and palliative care, that’s what I’m looking for.”

Donovan, the New Hampshire regulator, said the new governance document had not been submitted to his office and apparently wouldn’t need to be. A deal between two existing nonprofits would not trigger a review by his office, he said.

Donovan’s Jan. 27 letter had reframed a controversy that originated in August 2015, when Mark Israel, the long-tenured director of the cancer center, objected to D-H’s decision to pay various operating costs with $6 million drawn from center accounts that held money raised from donors. Israel said that about $1.6 million of the money in those accounts came from the Prouty; D-H said that just under half that amount came from the Prouty.

In June, Dartmouth and D-H officials announced that Israel had decided to leave the director’s job at the end of September. In October, Israel sued D-H, alleging that he had been illegally forced out of the job in retaliation for his decision to blow the whistle on what he saw as D-H’s improper use of the Prouty money and other donations.

D-H has moved to dismiss Israel’s lawsuit. However, in a Feb. 3 letter that cited Donovan’s ruling, D-H Chief Executive James Weinstein denied any misuse of the funds but said that “in a demonstration of our good faith,” the health system had provided the cancer center with “an additional $6 million in funds ... for cancer research, patient support services and faculty recruitment.”

The new governance document won’t be made available to the public, according to representatives of both institutions.

Rick Adams, a D-H spokesman, said that “arrangements governing the operation and activities of (Norris Cotton Cancer Center) have been clarified, simplified, and aligned to allow for more transparent and efficient management of resources to support cancer research and patient care.” The agreement is “an internal document and is not public,” he added.

Derik Hertel, a spokesman for Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, said that the governance agreement was “based on the joint governance model that the (cancer center) has been operating under for years (and) clarifies and better aligns management and operations of the center.”

Gilbert said she had been informed that a new agreement was being drafted “when I was first up in arms that money was being taken from the cancer center.”

“There never was a written agreement ever” spelling out governance of the center, she added. “It’s an amazing, amazing, amazing story.”

Gilbert said she had not seen the full document but that she had reviewed the portions of the agreement that pertained to the friends organization while it was being drafted. She saw the final language for those sections several months ago and was notified on Feb. 3 that the agreement had been signed, she said.

Geoffrey Vitt, Israel’s lawyer, said creating a written governance document “sounds like a great idea to me.”

“If one of the goals of this agreement is to assure the public that the Prouty money will be used as intended, something has got to be in writing,” Vitt added.

The director who will operate under the new governance structure has yet to be named. On Wednesday, Weinstein said in an email to employees that the search for a new cancer center director had identified “great candidates” and that a decision would be announced soon so that the next head would be “coming on board as soon as this summer.”

Gilbert and Amos also announced a $1.5 million commitment from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation that included a $1 million gift to the friends and a pledge to match up to $500,000 in participant donations to the Prouty.

Robert Snyder, the foundation’s secretary-treasurer, confirmed that commitment had been made by the foundation, which is led by Dorothy Byrne and carries the name of her late husband, who died from cancer in 2013. “At the end of the day, cancer has touched their lives,” Snyder said. Dorothy Byrne is an empathetic person, Snyder added: “She’s just a nice lady that doesn’t like to see people suffer.”

Snyder said the latest commitment was intended as a vote of confidence for the friends organization as well as to “try to encourage the greater Upper Valley community” to unite to back a worthy cause.

The Byrne Foundation is a private foundation based in Hanover that Dorothy Byrne uses to provide financial support focused on the Dartmouth College community, cancer research and general philanthropy in the Upper Valley. In 2016, the Byrne Foundation gave the friends $300,000 to match donations to the Prouty and $400,000 to support research by Matthew Havrda, Snyder said. Havrda is a neurobiologist on the Geisel School of Medicine faculty who specializes in Parkinson’s disease research.

Rick Jurgens can be reached at or 603-727-3229.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy