Crain Gives $1M to UAMS Cancer Institute

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Larry Crain Sr. on Tuesday pledged $1 million to an effort by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ to get its Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute a National Cancer Institute Designation.

Crain is president of Crain Management Group LLC, a holding company with interests in 19 auto and RV dealerships, automotive parts distributors, radio and TV broadcasting and investment real estate. He said he pledged the money in honor of his late wife Janett, who died in 2018 after battling cancer.

“I just want to honor her and the things she did, not only in our personal lives, but also the things she’s done for all the communities we’ve lived in,” Crain said in a news release. “I didn’t realize how many lives she affected until after her death. There were so many people who made me aware of things she did for them that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.”

UAMS said it will rename the Seed of Hope Garden on the institute’s ground floor as the Janett Crain Seed of Hope Garden.

Crain’s gift also honors Janett’s caregivers, as well as Crain’s sister-in-law, who survived advanced lung cancer thanks to a clinical trial and is now cancer-free. 

“I want to think that making this commitment will create results for someone else in a similar way,” Crain said.

According to UAMS, NCI Designation is awarded through a competitive assessment process during which cancer centers must demonstrate outstanding depth and breadth of high-quality cancer research. 

Receiving designation brings substantial benefits, including the ability to access federal research funding and offer clinical trials not available to non-designated centers. UAMS also expects the designation would result in a $72 million state economic impact and the creation of 1,500 new jobs over five years.

There are 71 NCI-designated cancer centers in 36 states across the country, with the closest to Arkansas being in Memphis, Dallas and Oklahoma City.

“This incredible gift will provide critical resources to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute as we pursue NCI Designation,” said Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor and director of the cancer institute. “With NCI Designation comes access to the latest in clinical trials and therapies for our patients. Renaming the Seed of Hope Garden is a fitting way to honor Janett, who inspired so many with her example and service.”

Larry Crain Sr. earned an accounting degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1963 and joined Crain Automotive Inc., a general merchandise and auto parts business begun by his father, in 1966. 

Eventually that expanded into Crain Sales in Searcy, Over time, the company acquired other auto parts distribution businesses and expanded to 16 locations. In 1991, this expanded to auto dealerships.

Larry and Janett were high school sweethearts who married while attending the UA. Janett was a schoolteacher and volunteer in her children’s schools and in the community.