- Feb 2, 2006
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Otto honored today...
UCD Cancer Center honors Otto today
Festivities start at noon in ARC
Special to The Democrat
The morning of Sept. 13, 2002, Oakland Raiders legend Jim Otto arrived at UC Davis Cancer Center in Sacramento bearing team jerseys and caps for the physicians, nurses and radiation therapists.
They had supported him through his battle against prostate cancer. It was poignant exchange of shirts and hugs.
In the years since, Otto has continued to promote his new team - the doctors, nurses and patients of UC Davis Cancer Center - at every opportunity, using his celebrity, time and talents to raise the institution's visibility regionally and nationally and to lead its Capital and Endowment Initiative.
UC Davis will say thanks today. At noon in Ballroom A of the Activities and Recreation Center, corner of LaRue and Orchard Roads on the Davis campus, Otto will be awarded the UC Davis Foundation's 2006 Charles J. Soderquist Award.
The award recognizes Otto's extraordinary volunteer leadership and support of philanthropy at UC Davis.
"Jim Otto's work to advance the mission and vision of UC Davis Cancer Center is an inspiration to all of us," said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "His contributions to our university and region are impressive, and make him a most worthy recipient of the Charles J. Soderquist Award."
The Charles J. Soderquist Award was established by the trustees of the UC Davis Foundation in 2005 to honor "Charlie" Soderquist for his many contributions to UC Davis. A prominent Sacramento-area entrepreneur, educator and philanthropist, Soderquist was a major UC Davis benefactor and volunteer.
The award comes with a $5,000 prize that the recipient then awards to the UC Davis college, school or campus unit of choice.
Otto plans to turn his prize over to the UC Davis Cancer Center's Capital and Endowment Initiative.
The initiative, the first in the center's history, seeks to raise $35 million for an expansion that will double the size of the Cancer Center and create the university's first endowed chairs in cancer research.
"Through his personal giving, leadership of a major fundraising initiative at the Cancer Center and passion for our vision and mission, Jim has built a legacy that will benefit patients and our region for decades to come," said Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. Pomeroy nominated Otto for the award.
In addition to serving as volunteer chair of the Capital and Endowment Initiative, Otto has made a personal pledge of $75,000 to the campaign. With his wife, Sally, he has raised another $300,000 by hosting celebrity golf tournaments attended by former teammates like Daryle Lamonica and Otis Sistrunk. He was instrumental in securing the largest single gift in the center's history, a $5 million award from the Oakland-based Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation.
Otto was a center for the Raiders from 1960 until 1974, starting in 210 consecutive regular-season games, a record that stands to this day.
Against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II in 1968, he played with a case of double pneumonia, a dislocated knee, broken fingers and a broken jaw. He was named All-Pro after playing a full season with every ligament torn in one knee.
In 1980, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Otto's football injuries are fabled. He has undergone 52 major surgeries, including 12 knee and four shoulder replacements; his spine is supported by steel rods. But Otto says none of those health threats shook him like prostate cancer.
"You don't want anyone else to have to go through the agony that comes along with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment," Otto said.
"That's why I'm doing this."
Otto hopes the award will serve to demonstrate "that you don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference," and encourage others to support the region's only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
"This award is very, very special to me," he added, "and very humbling."