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Car dealer, cancer survivor Steve Fox gives $25M to start Texas Tech El Paso cancer center

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a comment from Dr. Richard Lange. The Fox donation did not help secure the state Legislature’s funding for the planned El Paso cancer center, he said.

El Paso car dealer Steve Fox said he negotiated the deal of his life more than 20 years ago when he was diagnosed with advanced tongue and neck cancer.

"Being a (car) salesman, I thought I'm going to make a deal with God. So, I made a promise that if God allowed me to survive, I would spend the rest of my life helping those who followed me (with cancer)," Fox, 70, owner and chief executive officer of the Fox Toyota, Lexus, and Acura auto dealerships in El Paso, said in an interview.

He's making a big payment on that promise with a $25 million donation from him, his wife, Nancy, and their two daughters to Texas Tech University, to help staff a planned El Paso cancer treatment center.

The facility, to be named the Steve and Nancy Fox Cancer Center, is to be built with $65 million recently allotted by the Texas Legislature to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, at the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.
El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, at the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.

The donation was announced Tuesday during a festive ceremony attended by more than 200 people, including many of El Paso's top business, government, and health care leaders, in the auditorium of a new classroom building on the Texas Tech El Paso campus in South Central El Paso.

Cancer donation 'transformative'

"This (donation) will transform cancer care, treatment and research here and across the border," Dr. Richard Lange, president of the Texas Tech El Paso campus, said at the ceremony.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Hispanic population, Texas Tech officials said. And, Lange said, cancer was the leading cause of death in El Paso County in 2020.

Having a comprehensive cancer treatment center in El Paso will provide care not now available here, and allow for better patient outcomes, Lange said. It also will allow more El Paso-area residents to remain home instead of having to leave town for many types of cancer treatments, Lange said.

Dr. Richard Lange, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, speaks before El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, at the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.
Dr. Richard Lange, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, speaks before El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, at the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.

Travel complicates cancer treatment

Fox received radiation and other treatments for several years at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of the top cancer treatment centers in the country.

Having to travel out of town for cancer treatments is physically and mentally taxing and makes the cancer fight more difficult, Fox said.

Dr. Tedd Mitchell, chancellor of the Texas Tech system based in Lubbock, said only a tiny percentage of the population can go to MD Anderson.

"The vast majority of folks cannot, and it's those folks we have to be the warriors for," Mitchell said at the ceremony. He called Fox and other El Paso leaders warriors who were fighting to improve health care in this region.

Fox isn't the only El Paso businessman to donate to Texas Tech El Paso. Billionaire Paul Foster in 2007 donated $50 million to help create the Texas Tech medical school in El Paso; real estate developer Woody Hunt donated $25 million in 2016 for a dental school; and El Paso banker Rick Francis in 2022 gave $10 million to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences on the El Paso campus.

El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox, his wife Nancy Fox and their daughters presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, on the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.
El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox, his wife Nancy Fox and their daughters presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, on the Texas Tech campus in El Paso.

Texas legislators get donation promise

Fox said he lobbied Texas Tech's Lange for years for a comprehensive cancer center in El Paso.

But it wasn't until University Medical Center of El Paso officials failed in 2022 to secure local tax funding for the cancer center that Fox and his wife began talking about making a large donation for that purpose, Fox said.

Fox confidentially committed to the $25 million donation several months ago, and that was made known to state legislators. Fox believes that helped get the $65 million state funding approved.

However, Lange and state Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, disagreed with that assessment. They said the donation did not play a role in the Legislature’s approval. González has said she pushed hard for the funding.

Lange said the cancer center would only be a building without the Fox donation that will be used to bring in doctors and other staff, for clinical trials, and research.

The 90,000 square-foot facility is to be built on land on the Texas Tech campus that the school got in a land swap with University Medical Center, Lange said. Construction is projected to begin next summer, and it possibly could open in the next two to three years, Lange said.

It will consolidate outpatient services, including cancer imaging, treatment, research and clinical trials in one place, according to Texas Tech information.

The Texas Tech mascot Raider Red and the Fox Auto Team mascot welcome guests to the Texas Tech campus in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso.
The Texas Tech mascot Raider Red and the Fox Auto Team mascot welcome guests to the Texas Tech campus in El Paso on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. El Paso auto dealer Steve Fox and his family presented a gift of $25M to the Texas Tech University Health Services Center El Paso for a new cancer center in El Paso.

More: University Medical Center of El Paso spending $55M to buy, upgrade surgical hospital

Profitable dealerships make gift possible

Fox said the large donation was made possible by his 32 years of operating profitable new car dealerships. In 2015, he and his partners, the late Bob Hoy, and his late son Steve Hoy, ended their years-long partnership. Fox formed the Fox Auto Team, which includes the Fox Toyota, Lexus, and Acura dealerships, Bob Hoy died of cancer in 2015.

Fox, diagnosed with stage 4 tongue and throat cancer in 2000, was deemed cancer free in 2005. However, there's no guarantee the cancer won't return, he said.

"I always felt like I was going to survive. I never gave up. I always believed I would win," Fox said. "That's from my faith in God. When I was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I did, I thanked my mother for instilling in me (Christian) faith."

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 915-546-6421, vkolenc@elpasotimes.com and @vickolenc on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso car dealer Steve Fox gives $25M for Texas Tech cancer center

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