It was the opportunity of a lifetime: Here’s $1 million. Give it to whatever organization you see fit.

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Cathy Bessant

Cathy Bessant is one of the most recognizable names in Charlotte’s business community, civic circles and was a titan on the national banking scene for years. Today she oversees one of the largest community foundations in the United States, the Foundation For The Carolinas.

It was Bank of America that handed her the check in recognition of her work there. And now she had the best problem in the world: Who to give $1 million to?

Empathetic care from dedicated cancer specialists.

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Maybe five seconds, no wait, three seconds, in her retelling of the story, was all it took to decide. Bessant directed the gift to the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation to establish the endowed fund to give back to current and future cancer patients.


This significant contribution will establish the Novant Health Catherine P. Bessant Endowed Chair - Breast Health and support these transformative initiatives:

  • Acquisition of state-of-the-art, lifesaving equipment and technology for oncology care;
  • Research and innovation to include clinical trials and leading-edge research, ensuring patient access to emerging therapies;
  • Holistic patient care and outreach; and
  • Continuing education for Novant Health clinical leaders.

As an extension of the gift and in recognition of Bessant, the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation changed the name of the Novant Health Cancer Institute Buddy Kemp Support Center to the Novant Health Cancer Institute Kemp Bessant Support Center.

The Center provides on-site services and programs to support patients and their families before, during and after cancer treatment in a comfortable, home-like setting close to the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center campus. The Center was originally named in honor of Charlotte banker Buddy Kemp, former president of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), who passed away of brain cancer in 1990 and who Bessant worked with early in her career. NCNB formed the core of what today is Bank of America.

And it’s the center Bessant credits with helping in her full recovery. As a top executive at one of the biggest banks in the world, she was used to be in charge. But as she transitioned from treatment to recovery, she was suddenly, lost, vulnerable and disoriented. The help she got there “put me back together as a whole person,” she said.

And so when Bank of America tapped her on the shoulder 14 years later, she was ready. “The idea that we could create something that would allow advancement in the field and respect a great surgeon and respect a great organization, to me, that's what legacy and sustainability are all about.”

Cathy Bessant, Dr. Peter Turk and wife, Julie Turk.

For more information about the Novant Health Foundation and to donate, visit