A commitment of $10 million from Marion I. Knott, matriarch of one of Baltimore's most philanthropic families, will endow directorships in cancer and medical genetics at the School of Medicine.
The head of the Department of Oncology will be known as the Marion I. Knott Director and Professor of Oncology, and the recently established McKusick-Nathans Medical Genetics Institute will be led by the Henry J. Knott Director and Professor of Medical Genetics.
The genetics directorship honors Marion Knott's late husband, Henry J. Knott, a builder, developer and philanthropist whose companies constructed thousands of homes and businesses in Baltimore. The couple's gifts to area educational, health and cultural institutions to date have exceeded $300 million.
According to Henry J. Knott Jr., one of the Knotts' 13 children, "My mother believes strongly in the importance of the work under way at Hopkins in understanding, preventing and treating cancer and other devastating diseases." A cancer survivor, Knott said he has benefited personally from advances in treatment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Two of his sisters have died of this disease, and another sister is also is a survivor, he added.
Marion I. Knott and her husband encouraged all their children to become active in civic life and philanthropy. Daughter Mary Patricia Knott Smyth said her father sent each of his adult children a letter warning them of the pitfalls of accumulating wealth. The letter read, in part, "Those who want to be rich are falling into a trap. When you start to think you deserve your blessings, you don't."
In a 1987 Baltimore magazine profile, Henry J. Knott discussed his motivations for giving away so much of his wealth: "It's like catching fish," he said. "You get up early. You fill the boat with fish, and then you give them away before they start to rot."
The Knotts have played a key role in the leadership of Hopkins over the years and have made significant gifts to the institution, including property in East Baltimore. In 1994, the medical campus west of Broadway was named the Marion Burk Knott Campus in honor of Mrs. Knott. Henry J. Knott served as a hospital trustee for many years, and his son Francis X. Knott is currently on the boards of the hospital and the university.
"We are tremendously grateful for this extraordinary commitment from Marion I. Knott," university president William R. Brody commented. "The resources these endowments will provide the directors in oncology and medical genetics are particularly significant at a time when all academic medical centers are under increasing pressure because of changes in the health care marketplace."
Edward D. Miller, Baker Dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, "This generous gift gives the directors in oncology and medical genetics considerable flexibility in supporting innovative research projects and entrepreneurial clinical initiatives."
Physician Martin D. Abeloff heads the Department of Oncology. A director of medical genetics has not yet been appointed. "The endowment will clearly help us to attract an outstanding physician, teacher and leader to direct the new institute," Miller said.
Marion I. Knott's gift counts toward the Johns Hopkins Initiative, which had total commitments of $1.305 billion as of Oct. 1. The campaign, which recently exceeded its increased goal of $1.2 billion, is scheduled to conclude in June 2000 and will continue to focus on ongoing needs, particularly student aid, the libraries and facilities.