Fred Hutch Legacy Insiders
Learn how loyal supporters and their advisors are fueling breakthroughs in research for cancer and related diseases that impact patients worldwide. We hope you enjoy these stories.
Jim Morrison: Around the world and back again
Jim Morrison reflects on naming Fred Hutch in his trust and why it matters to him
A change in life plans
In 1993, Jim’s plans to retire from Boeing took an unexpected turn, and he landed in the care of Fred Hutch. A Navy man through and through he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1952, Jim takes great pride in his 35-year career with Boeing, during which he became a launch pad missile test engineer and flight test engineer at Cape Canaveral. Before his retirement, a visit with a flight surgeon revealed the true nature of a growth Jim developed on his neck — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Jim has a sense of humor and enjoys using it. He is quick to make a joke or land a quip. So, perhaps it’s not surprising to learn of his optimism at the time of his diagnosis. “The chemo did not work, so I said, ‘Well, alright. Let’s try it.”
Since his transplant, Jim hasn’t forgotten the kindness Fred Hutch nurses showed him during his 35 days in the hospital. “Back in those days, they [nurses] put a big sign in my room that said, ‘Happy Birthday’ because that was my new birthday in January of ’93,” he said. Jim’s happy outlook is embedded in an immense sense of gratitude for what Fred Hutch is trying to accomplish every day: cure cancer and infectious diseases.
The same month Jim recovered from his bone transplant and officially retired from Boeing, he began volunteering for Fred Hutch. “I became a volunteer with the Hutch in their outpatient setting, and this is where I intermingled with the new patients coming in. Back then, the patients were coming from all over the world and our country, of course, because it was the only place at the time doing bone marrow transplants successfully,” he said.
Around the world and back five times
In the years following his bone marrow transplant, Jim took a full-throttled approach to life. A sailor to the core, he has enjoyed four separate around-the-world cruises, each taking him to about 25 countries and 40 ports and two grand Asia/Pacific cruises. “I like that feeling of being on the endless oceans of the world,” he said.
Jim and his late wife, LaVerne, relocated from Seattle to Las Vegas in 1998 to be closer to their daughter, Jane Ann. Jim said they are a small family and naming Fred Hutch in their trust was a no-brainer. “It was natural for our trust to come to Fred Hutch,” he said.
Jim, who says he swims better than he walks these days. He swims laps for one hour three times a week and takes a dip every day around noon. “I like taking on challenges,” he said.
When asked what he wants the world to know about Fred Hutch, Jim said, “I’m very grateful to the Hutch. I’m 92, and the way things were going 29 years ago, I don’t think my reaching 92 was in the cards. I am very grateful for my bone marrow transplant, and so was my wife and my daughter. We were all very appreciative.”
The Morrison family has never doubted the choice to leave their legacy with Fred Hutch. “It was a very clear decision for us,” he said.
Interested in learning more about how your trust could support crucial cancer research and clinical care? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Hutch scientists receive $25M to solve breast cancer metastasis
New collaboration will target dormant tumor cells, keeping them asleep (or killing them) so they won’t spread
Translational breast cancer researcher Dr. Cyrus Ghajar, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Li, and immunotherapy expert Dr. Stanley Riddell of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center have received a four-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to learn how to kill metastatic cancer’s deadly seeds before they can sprout.
The new Transformative Breast Cancer Consortium Award, specifically designed to fund high-risk/high-reward research, will bring together a dream team of Hutch researchers, breast cancer patient advocates and collaborators at Huntsman Cancer Institute of Salt Lake City and the University of California at San Francisco.
The scientific teams will focus their efforts on devising ways to squelch disseminated breast cancer tumor cells that have traveled to distant tissues like bone marrow and become dormant, a vulnerable precursor state before tumor spread. The researchers will initially focus on bone metastasis and expand from there to research other areas in the body where breast cancer can metastasize or spread.
“We have to move the needle on metastasis,” Ghajar said. “But we’re not going to be able to do that until we understand the biology of dormancy and you’re not going to do that until you start looking closely at these cells and how they’re regulated. Not in animal models. In humans. This grant and our team finally provide a vehicle to do that.”
‘A transformation in people’s lives’
According to the Department of Defense, a longtime funder of breast cancer research, the new grant mechanism is designed to “support collaborations and ideas that will transform the lives of individuals with, and/or at risk for, breast cancer and will significantly accelerate progress toward ending breast cancer.”
And this transformation must be in people’s lives, “not in the health care or research system,” the DOD said.
Ghajar, who joined the Hutch in 2013 and runs the Laboratory for the Study of Metastatic Microenvironments, will serve as the scientific director of the newly formed consortium; Li will serve as its administrative director.
The principal objective is to develop therapies to either kill or silence dormant disseminated tumor cells, or DTCs. The collaboration, which uses the acronym TRANCE, will attempt to do this by “TaRgeting ANd reprogramming DTCs to prEvent lethal metastasis.”
“Targeting and eradicating the root of distant breast cancer recurrence — breast tumor cells that have disseminated and lie dormant in distant organs like the lung, bone marrow and brain — may be the paradigm-shifting therapeutic strategy that prevents lethal metastatic disease,” the team wrote in the proposal.
Treatable but not curable…yet
Unlike early-stage disease, metastatic breast cancer is treatable, but not yet curable.
Median survival for newly diagnosed metastatic patients is three years and metastatic breast cancer kills more than 41,000 people each year. According to Hutch research, around 20% of early-stage patients go on to develop metastasis within 20 years. These diagnoses are often the result of DTCs that have spread and survived systemic, or system-wide, treatments like chemotherapy. Metastatic tumors most often appear in the bones, liver, lungs and, eventually, brains, of metastatic breast cancer patients.
“Patients with DTCs in their marrow are more likely to recur than those who do not,” said Ghajar, who’s researched metastatic breast cancer and the metastatic process for over a decade. “We’ve known this for 17 years but we have not yet gone beyond that. There are currently no drugs to selectively target these cells.”
Ghajar believes that targeting disseminated breast tumor cells — by either keeping them sound asleep or killing them while they slumber — will shut down the metastatic cascade.
And that could mean peace of mind for many.
“What we want is to prevent patients from looking over their shoulder in five or 10 years, wondering if the cancer’s going to come back,” he said.
‘That’s exactly what happened to me’
Lynda Weatherby of Seattle was first diagnosed and treated for stage 0 breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS, in 2001. Twelve years later, she learned her cancer had spread to her bones and brain.
“The thing about Cyrus’ work on disseminated tumor cells and dormant cells is that’s exactly what happened to me,” she said. “As soon as I heard about his work, I said, ‘I want to know what caused it. Take my blood, take whatever you need.’”
A metastatic breast cancer, or MBC, patient advocate, Weatherby recently worked with the MBC Alliance and the women’s cancer nonprofit SHARE to create MBCBrainmets.org, a new website for patients.
“There was really not a good resource out there for MBC brain mets patients,” she said. “So a great team of patient advocates built one from the ground up, with information and resources and clinical trial matching. All completely vetted by a medical advisory board.”
Thanks to research and new therapies, MBC patients like Weatherby are living much longer than the median three years. She uses much of that time to advocate for more research into metastatic breast cancer, particularly brain mets.
“I’m thrilled to see Cyrus and his team acknowledged and funded in this way,” she said. “When I was first diagnosed, the amount of research that went to metastatic breast cancer as opposed to prevention, screening and early detection was like 5% to 7%. We seem to be seeing a sea change. People like Cyrus are starting with metastasis now.”
And for Weatherby and thousands of other metastatic cancer patients in the U.S., that’s the holy grail.
“If you can solve for the metastatic problem, that benefits every single early-stage patient and every single metastatic patient,” she said. “And sometimes, it benefits across tumor types.”
‘Deep and definitive dive’
But targeting dormant DTCs means first fully understanding the mechanisms that drive metastasis. And not all dormant cancer cells go on to become distant tumors.
“Two-thirds of breast cancer patients with detectable bone marrow DTCs will not recur,” Ghajar said. “But we’re currently unable to distinguish between the DTCs capable of initiating metastasis — clinically relevant mets — from those that are not. And without this knowledge, indiscriminate use of DTC-targeted therapies would result in an unacceptable level of overtreatment,” meaning people who would never benefit would be put through unnecessary treatment side effects.
The TRANCE consortium aims to learn the mechanics, overcome the barriers and discover actionable strategies to target and/or reprogram disseminated tumor cells and mitigate their lethal potential. They’re doing this through a comprehensive assessment of the genome of DTCs, the way genes are activated and regulated in these cells, how the immune system responds to them and the cellular environment they live in within the body.
Five separate research teams will work on five distinctive but related projects for the consortium’s deep and definitive dive into DTCs. A team of MBC patient advocates will provide input, advice and help disseminate the information to the cancer community and public.
Epidemiologist Li, holder of the Helen G. Edson Endowed Chair for Breast Cancer Research, will lead one project designed to predict the risk of recurrence among early-stage breast cancer patients with disseminated tumor cells.
Li and colleagues will enroll newly diagnosed early-stage breast cancer patients (stages 1 to 3) at three sites: the Fred Hutch/University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Cancer Consortium, Huntsman in Salt Lake City and Washington University in St. Louis. These patients will allow their surgeons to harvest solid and fluid bone marrow samples during either a port-placement surgery before their chemotherapy starts or during a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
“This study is designed to identify DTCs in patients that have not been impacted by breast cancer treatments so that we can study them before they have been influenced by chemotherapy or radiation,” Li said.
After that, researchers will study the patients for several years.
“An important part of this study is our annual follow-up of patients we recruit for the next 10 years,” he said. “Each year patients will complete a questionnaire and donate a blood sample, and then throughout follow-up we will also be collecting rich clinical data from patient medical records. We recognize that we are asking a lot of participants.”
But they’ll be getting back a lot in return.
Li and his team will use the molecular sequencing data from the patient tissue samples to create risk prediction models that distinguish between DTC-positive patients likely to develop metastasis versus DTC-positive patients unlikely to develop it.
This information will help the researchers determine which patients should be included in future clinical trials that target DTCs. It will also reduce the likelihood of unnecessary overtreatment of patients.
Neutralizing tumor cells
What exactly can be used to treat DTCs? That’s what the rest of the consortium will discover.
Ghajar and immunology expert Riddell, who holds the Burke O’Reilly Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy, will co-lead another project that aims to use both natural and engineered immunity to neutralize disseminated tumor cells.
This team will use deep precision profiling of primary tumors, disseminated tumor cells and the immune microenvironments — the immune cells in and around tumor cells — to identify candidate antigens (markers on tumor cells that immune cells could be programmed to target) for engineered T-cell immunity. They’ll also look at the mechanisms used by the tumor and its microenvironment to suppress immune response as future drugs could potentially target these mechanisms to neutralize DTCs.
Ghajar and Riddell’s team will use patient data and specimens from the sister projects to drive their project’s discovery pipeline which in turn, will inform additional projects.
Metastatic breast cancer patient Teri Pollastro of Seattle, one of the advocates on this project, said she and fellow advocates were involved in every step of the proposal.
“We read it, we edited it, we did a patient advocate piece for it and talked about what the project would look like,” she said. “We were all very involved and the scientists were very accepting and appreciative. They took everything we said very seriously. To me that was exceptional. We definitely were a team.”
Like Weatherby, Pollastro also progressed from DCIS to metastatic breast cancer (stage 4) after several years. She is still in treatment and advocates for MBC research through the Hutch and other organizations, such as the MBC Alliance.
Pollastro, who has participated in clinical trials herself, said inviting patients to the research table is both necessary and beneficial to science.
“I can’t tell the researchers about science but I can tell them what it’s like to be a patient,” she said.
Li said the yearlong contribution of time and insights from patient advocates was immense.
“They have been critical in every aspect of this proposal,” he said.
UCSF researchers Dr. Jayanta Debnath, a cell biologist and expert on autophagy (how the body devours damaged cells) and Dr. Arun Wiita, a physician-scientist who has developed cutting-edge strategies to define the sets of proteins that are on cell surfaces, will lead an effort to define and re-engineer the DTC and metastatic cell surface to prevent metastasis. Their goal is to either re-engineer and uncloak these cancer cells for elimination by host immune cells or render them incapable of metastatic progression.
Dr. Alana Welm of Huntsman Cancer Institute, a cancer biologist with expertise in modeling and the tumor microenvironment, will expand her rapid autopsy program, which collects tissue from patients immediately after death, to reveal tissue-specific features of DTCs and the microenvironments that keep them alive even through cancer therapy. She and her team will look for ways to make the environment less supportive, then will trial these therapies in humanized mouse models (that is, laboratory mice engineered to have some human biological features).
The final project is on epigenetics, the changes on top of our genes that are influenced by environmental factors such as stress and nutrition and passed down from parent to child. The team will define epigenetic variants in “clinically relevant DTCs” – the ones that go on to drive metastasis – in hopes they can potentially be targeted with treatment. Led by Dr. Katherine “K-T” Varley at Huntsman, a computational biologist who has pioneered methods to profile cancer epigenomes (all the epigenetic modifications on a cancer cell that tell it what to do), this project is intended to define epigenetic changes associated with DTC emergence that enable early detection of subclinical (or undetected) recurrence and devise therapies to keep DTCs dormant or target them for immune detection (and destruction).
Along with Pollastro, patient advocates include Sharon Folland, working with researchers at Huntsman; Vivian Lee, partnering with the UCSF team; and Debbie Laxague and Tracy Solak, both from the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
Will this help current mets patients?
“Our goal is to prevent lethal metastasis,” Li said of TRANCE’s objective. “That could happen different ways: by identifying patients up front who are at high risk for metastasis, through different forms of treatment that prevent metastasis, and by more frequent follow-ups of patients who are high risk. We want to prevent lethal metastasis through a combination of potential strategies.”
And the TRANCE consortium, he added, is a unique opportunity to do what “none of us could have done by ourselves.”
“We’re basically taking all these unknowns about disseminated tumor cells and throwing every available technology at them,” Ghajar said. “The goal is to learn everything we can about DTCs and use all of this information to finally do something about them.”
Is this work relevant to those currently living with metastatic disease?
“Our hope is that some of the approaches we develop could have relevance to the metastatic setting,” Li said. “We have to evaluate and test but there is certainly potential for the work to be relevant to current metastatic patients.”
Making a gift that keeps on giving — Gifts in a Will, Trust or by Beneficiary Designation
Throughout our lifetime, we reflect on what we have achieved and what we are still hoping to accomplish. This process is often how we reconfirm our values and align ourselves with our beliefs.
Maybe you’ve wished you could do more to further research that will one day stop cancer and related diseases from threatening the lives of those we love. However, you may be concerned about making a commitment you might not be able to keep, or making a gift with a financial asset you might end up needing for yourself.
But there are many ways to create a lasting legacy that offers you the flexibility you need.
Gifts in a will or trust
You can include Fred Hutch in your will or living trust by…
- Research for discovering how to prevent, detect and treat cancer and related diseases.
- Designating the gift of your choice (for example, cash, real estate, personal property, or securities).
- Giving a fraction or percentage of your assets.
- Leaving a residual gift that is made after all obligations and other distributions are made.
With this gift, you maintain complete control of your assets during your lifetime, and could save on income, and estate taxes.
Gifts by beneficiary designation
Some of your assets can easily be gifted to charities you care about. Examples include life insurance policies, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), commercial annuities, retirement plans, and bank or brokerage accounts.
By naming Fred Hutch as a beneficiary of one or more of these financial accounts, you can reduce income taxes and estate taxes for your loved ones. To do this, simply contact the firm that holds your assets and ask them for a beneficiary form to fill out. This process will cost you nothing now and requires nothing more than your signature.
Benefits of making a gift that costs you nothing now
A gift in your will, living trust or by beneficiary designation to Fred Hutch not only supports cancer research for years to come, but also…
- Allows you to maintain your assets now.
- Can be changed at any time for any reason.
- Has no minimum required amount – a gift of any size makes a difference.
- Can reduce or eliminate taxes on retirement assets.
If you think making a gift that costs you nothing now might be right for you, you can contact us at any time to learn more about the ways you can create your legacy with Fred Hutch.
Fauci visits Fred Hutch, discusses pandemics, vaccines and scientific misinformation
NIAID director’s determined spirit recognized with honorary Hutch Award
In an appearance before a live audience on the Hutch campus, Fauci sat down with renowned virologist and President and Director Emeritus Dr. Larry Corey to discuss their remarkable friendship and collaborations on pandemic research spanning nearly four decades.
The day was capped by an evening at T-Mobile Park, where Fauci delivered a ceremonial first pitch to Seattle Mariners’ manager Scott Servais and received an honorary 2022 Hutch Award. Usually given to ballplayers, the award recognizes the determined spirit of Fred Hutchinson, the Seattle sports legend who died of cancer in 1964 and for whom the cancer center is named.
“We could not be more proud to recognize Dr. Fauci’s contributions and impact on society and the world with this special Hutch Award,” said Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr., president and director of Fred Hutch and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair.
Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and is currently chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. Although widely known in the medical community, he emerged during the first tempestuous months of COVID-19 as the trusted provider of candid, intelligent — and not always reassuring — advice to millions of Americans about the gravity of the pandemic.
In his conversations with Corey, it became clear that Fauci had earned his credibility as a spokesman for science in the COVID-19 crisis by virtue of the work he began over 40 years ago, with the emergence of another pandemic virus, HIV.
As a rising young researcher at NIAID in the early 1980’s, Fauci essentially pivoted all his work to what became known as HIV/AIDS as soon as it became apparent to him that a previously unknown virus was causing the mysterious disease killing gay men by destroying their immune system.
“Everybody thought I was crazy,” Fauci recalled. “My mentors told me I was making a big career mistake.”
Fauci explained how over the years, he worked to shift money within NIAID to cover AIDS research. When he needed to build a clinical trials network to test the new drugs that eventually were to turn HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease, he turned to Corey, who was experienced in the design of antiviral clinical trials dating back to his work on the development of the first antiviral drug for herpes, acyclovir.
In the decade after the development of effective HIV/AIDS drugs, Fauci’s attention turned to addressing the unmet need for such medications in Africa and in developing countries where case numbers were dwarfing anything that had been seen in the U.S.
Fauci recounted how President George W. Bush put him in charge of designing a program called PEPFAR — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — that since its launch in 2003 has invested more than $100 billion in bringing low-cost drugs to developing countries and saved an estimated 21 million lives.
Fauci told Corey that he had originally hoped to persuade President Bush to support a $500 million program to reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child, but Bush told him, “This is not enough, go back and give me something that’s totally transforming.”
“I told him, ‘Mr. President, this could cost billions and billions of dollars.’ And he told me, ‘Let me worry about the money,’” Fauci said.
Bush inserted, without telling the press or Congress, a line into his 2003 State of the Union address calling for a five-year, $15 billion commitment, and the rest is history.
“I say this with all sincerity,” Fauci said. “The credit all goes to George W. Bush. It would not have happened if he didn’t say he was totally committed to doing it. This is a side of him that most people don’t appreciate.”
Corey summed up the effort: “I think it has saved more lives than any other program in the history of mankind.”
A focus on developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine
Even before PEPFAR was developed and launched, Fauci’s relationship with Corey deepened with the establishment of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, or HVTN, the largest publicly funded international collaboration focused on evaluating HIV/AIDS vaccines. Based at Fred Hutch, it has carried out dozens of clinical trials, large and small, on potential vaccines and components for two decades.
Although an effective vaccine remains elusive, the program continues to refine the science behind the immune response to HIV and the design of vaccine strategies that can elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies of the sort researchers believe will ultimately be able to prevent HIV infections.
HVTN established not only an international network of clinical vaccine trial sites, but a model of community involvement in the design of such trials as well. When it became apparent within months of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 that a vaccine was both essential and possible, Fauci worked with Corey and others, with the HVTN model in mind, to develop a framework for conducting massive clinical trials.
The effort made possible — within the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed — the clinical trials that brought effective vaccinations against COVID-19 by the end of 2020.
While that success has been gratifying, Fauci still expresses bafflement at the hesitancy of many Americans to avail themselves of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2.
“When you have a disease that has killed one million Americans,” Fauci said to Corey, “and you have hesitancy to use a lifesaving intervention — which is a vaccine and a booster — it seems like, ‘What world are we living in?’…It’s almost inexplicable.”
Fauci predicted that new booster shots would be available from Pfizer by the middle of September, with a similar booster from Moderna by late September or early October. Yet he is alarmed that vaccination rates are lagging, while the virus continues to change.p>
Fauci was blunt that misinformation is eroding trust in scientists and the work they do.
“Some people don’t want to get vaccinated because they don’t have enough information about it, and it’s not that they are inherently anti-vax. For others it’s because so much misinformation is thrown at them, and they don’t have good, trusted messengers to give them the right information. And then there are others that are just hard core, and there is nothing you’re going to change their minds,” he said.
Fauci said that he has had opportunities to deliver commencement addresses earlier this summer, and the core message he wanted to give young people is “Don’t accept the normalization of untruths.”
“There’s so much preposterous lying going on,” he said, “…and when people who have a lot of other things going on in their lives they have to worry about, they kind of start accepting it, and all of sudden lying becomes normal…Don’t accept as normal flagrant distortions of truth and reality, because once you do that, nothing counts.”
After the close of the discussion, Fauci and Corey dropped in on a group of high school students attending the Hutch’s Summer High School Internship Program for seniors and High School Explorers Program for rising 10th and 11th graders.
Asked about the “Fauci effect,” an increase in student interest in medical science and public health said to be driven by Fauci’s example during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci said, “I don’t think I’m a big deal because people call it the Fauci effect, but I think it is very good testimony to the importance of science. If people see something that they feel is important that they want to emulate, and they go into science because of it, that’s a good thing.”
The day was capped by an evening at T-Mobile Park, where Fauci — wearing the home team’s jersey with his name emblazoned on the back — delivered a ceremonial first pitch to Seattle Mariners’ manager Scott Servais and received the honorary 2022 Hutch Award.
President Jimmy Carter, who survived melanoma in 2015, became the first and only other person who is not a ballplayer to receive an honorary Hutch Award the following year.
In a touching and seemingly unscripted moment, Servais — who was sidelined by COVID-19 in April — pulled a mask from his pocket and asked Fauci to autograph it, and then he autographed a baseball to give to Fauci.
Perhaps, in unscientific terms, the good vibes of the event translated onto the field. In a game veteran manager Servais later described as “one of the best games I have ever seen,” the Yankees and the Mariners battled out a scoreless tie for 13 innings, until the Mariners won it with a walk-off single, 1-0.
Join the Thomas Legacy Society
The Thomas Legacy Society at Fred Hutch is a special group of supporters who have made a commitment through a legacy gift to drive lifesaving cancer research and improve the lives of patients in the years to come.
What does a unique gift like this actually do? By making a gift for Fred Hutch in your will or trust, or by naming us as beneficiary on one of your financial or investment accounts, you contribute to:
- Research for discovering how to prevent, detect and treat cancer and related diseases.
- Upgrades to existing technology and acquisitions of new equipment.
- A variety of assistance and support for patients and their families.
- Staff and researchers who further the cause of curing cancer faster.
Visit our website to learn more or contact us.
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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance have merged, creating an organization that aims to bring scientific advances to patients faster, and deepens longstanding ties with UW Medicine.
Under the restructuring formally launched on April 1, Fred Hutch and SCCA are united as a single, independent, not-for-profit organization now called Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (Tax ID: 91-1935159). The unified organization will be a clinically integrated part of UW Medicine and UW Medicine’s cancer program.
“Today’s milestone is a tremendous step toward our vision of decreasing the time between discovery and delivery of the most advanced treatments for our patients,” said Fred Hutch President and Director and Raisbeck Endowed Chair holder Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, Jr., who held the same titles at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center before the merger. Read more about it here. Questions on how our merger affects your estate plans? Contact the planned giving team.