CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Cancer Hospital was formally named Monday for the late state Senate leader Marc Basnight, who helped approve the state funds to build the facility and later create a special state cancer research fund.
Gov. Roy Cooper, current Senate leader Phil Berger and former UNC system President Erskine Bowles were among those who spoke on the University of North Carolina Health main campus in Chapel Hill as a Basnight plaque was unveiled at the dedication ceremony.
Basnight, a Dare County Democrat who served a record 18 years as Senate president pro tempore through the end of 2010, died in December 2020 at age 73.
The legislature authorized $180 million for the hospital project in 2004. What's now known as the North Carolina Basnight Cancer Hospital opened in 2009, replacing a building that had been used as a tuberculosis sanitarium.
The 315,000 square-foot facility tripled the amount of space for cancer patients. More than 270,000 outpatient visits are made each year to the hospital, which is the clinical home for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and its affiliated clinics, UNC Health said.
Basnight’s wife, Sandy, died in 2007 after being treated for leukemia for several years.
“His painful loss of Sandy certainly was the spark that started this cancer center,” Cooper, a fellow Democrat, said at the ceremony, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. "But it was Marc’s relentless drive that finished it ... It is so fitting that it should bear his name.”
The General Assembly also created in 2007 a University Cancer Research Fund that received $58 million during the 2021 fiscal year.
Peter Hans, president of the University of North Carolina system, said that when Basnight led the Senate, institutions such as UNC “always benefited from bipartisan goodwill."