While Susan Mathews and her late husband, Robert, can be considered pioneers in the high-tech
industry, the Sacramento couple's greatest achievement may be in cancer research. With her recent gift
of $1 million to the UC Davis Cancer Research Program, Susie Mathews became the Cancer Center's largest
single donor to date.
As founder of Sacramento-based CableData (now DST Innovis), Bob Mathews conquered the cable television
billing industry in the 1980s. The company, which he started with a $5,000 loan, grew to serve more than
22 million cable customers and realize more than $80 million in annual revenues. But Mathews' biggest
challenge did not come from a business competitor. In 1986, doctors diagnosed prostate cancer. In typical
fashion, Bob faced his illness head on. "Bob said, 'We've got to find a cure for this cancer before I
die from it'," Susie Mathews remembers.
During his treatment, Mathews formed a close friendship with his surgeon, Ralph deVere White, director
of UC Davis Cancer Center and professor and chair of urology at UC Davis School of Medicine.
The couple wanted to support deVere White's research. Together, deVere White and the Mathews collaborated
to develop a data processing system to automate cancer research at the Cancer Center, bringing in hardware
and programmers from CableData to build the custom software. The Mathews' efforts helped investigators
at the Cancer Center conduct research more efficiently and quickly.
Mathews, meanwhile, was losing his fight with prostate cancer. He died of the disease in 1987. Determined
to honor her late husband's memory and battle, Susie Mathews in 1990 established the Robert J. Mathews
Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research, after selling her portion of CableData.
Two years later Susie gave $100,000 to the UC Davis Cancer Center, the institution's first gift in support
of prostate cancer research. The contribution was critical to the institution's ability to launch a comprehensive
prostate cancer research program and proved to be a key component in the Cancer Center's ability to achieve
National Cancer Institute designation an honor reserved for institutions that exhibit excellence in
cancer research. Today, thanks in large part to Susie Mathews' initial gift, the prostate cancer research
program boasts 24 scientists and about $4 million in research funding.
Susie's commitment to the Cancer Center did not end with her first gift. Her $1 million pledge in November
will allow researchers at the Cancer Center to continue to conduct cutting-edge research across all cancer
"Just as her first gift helped the prostate program grow, her recent gift will help ensure that the entire
cancer program grows," deVere White says. "Her generous gifts honor Bob, and honor his desire to find
a cure for this terrible disease."