Sullivan’s $3 Million Gift Supports University of Hawaii Cancer Center

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“My family and I are delighted and proud to continue our support of the UH Cancer Center.  Our gift underscores our belief in the importance of cancer research and is a testament to our hope that the Center will have a positive impact on our state for many years to come.”- Joanna Lau Sullivan

 HONOLULU— Philanthropist and University of Hawai‘i supporter Joanna Lau Sullivan has made a $3 million pledge to the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center to help build, furnish and maintain its new state-of-the-art research building scheduled to open in early 2013.


In recognition of her generosity, the Center will name its new conference center the Sullivan Conference Center. Earlier this year, Mrs. Sullivan made a major gift to the Cancer Center that was combined with a gift from her late husband, Maurice J. “Sully” Sullivan, to create the J and M Sullivan Cancer Fund.

“Joanna Sullivan has been a longtime supporter of the University of Hawai‘i. She has been most generous with her commitment of time, wisdom, and resources. From serving on the Kapi‘olani Community College’s Hookipa Committee to her dedication to the UH Cancer Center, her impact on our students and our state is significant and will bring benefits for years to come,” said University of Hawai‘i System President MRC Greenwood, Ph.D.

Joanna Sullivan has been a major benefactor to a range of local nonprofits and institutions, including Chaminade University, St. Francis Healthcare System’s Cardiac Care Center and Ronald McDonald House. Her ongoing commitment and engagement with the local community is well recognized and she was awarded the prestigious 2008 Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“Joanna has made an extraordinary impact on our state through her philanthropy,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. “Her support of the UH Cancer Center will provide our leading scientists with the environment they need to be successful in their research efforts to prevent and treat cancer and to serve our community.  We are so very grateful to her.”

Joanna Sullivan’s husband, “Sully” Sullivan, was a successful entrepreneur and legendary philanthropist who founded the Foodland grocery store chain with Joanna and her family in 1948. He is also credited with bringing the McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts franchises to Hawai‘i. A prominent community leader, he recognized the importance of the University of Hawai‘i and supported a range of its programs. Sullivan also served as a UH Foundation trustee from 1978 to 1984.

The Sullivan family’s support of cancer research in Hawai‘i dates back decades. In 1971, Sully Sullivan established the Mama Lau Cancer Research Center at the University in memory of his mother-in-law. This laboratory led to the development of what is today the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, one of the leading research institutions in the U.S. designated by the National Cancer Institute. The Sullivans have also been major donors to the Cancer Center, establishing a chair to provide leadership for cancer research in Hawai‘i.

“Few have done as much as the Sullivan Family over many years to improve cancer research and treatment here in Hawai‘i,” said Dr. Michele Carbone, UH Cancer Center Director. Naming our new conference center after them will be a fitting tribute to their unflagging support and tremendous generosity. Their legacy will also inspire our dedication to finding better ways to beat cancer, knowing that they are with us every step of the way.”

The desire to make a positive difference in the world is a trait Joanna shares with her family, including her children Kitty Sullivan Wo, Jenai Sullivan Wall, Colleen Sullivan and Patrick Sullivan.

“The Sullivan family, with Joanna at the helm, is a prime example of how generational philanthropy can shape a community and inspire others to perpetuate meaningful legacies,” concluded Donna Vuchinich, president and CEO, UH Foundation.


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. Our mission is to unite our donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations to benefit the people of Hawai‘i and beyond. We do this by raising private philanthropic support, managing private investments and nurturing donor and alumni relationships.