Kenneth Jonsson, who helped found UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, dead at 79

UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center founder Kenneth A. Jonsson

Kenneth A. Jonsson, who along with his late wife, Diana, helped to found UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, died March 15 at his Pacific Palisades home. He was 79.

A longtime supporter of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jonsson made his first donation to support cancer research more than four decades ago in the 1960s. The cancer center was named for Jonsson and his family after a substantial cornerstone gift was made in 1975. Over the next 35 years, Jonsson and his family contributed millions more to support cancer research at UCLA.

Jonsson served on the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation’s board of directors for 43 years, and was president for several years in the early 1970s. He also was a longtime member of the board’s executive committee. In addition, Jonsson served on the David Geffen School of Medicine Board of Visitors for many years.

The Jonssons started supporting the cancer research program at UCLA after responding to a letter they received seeking gifts.

“We took a tour and we were hooked,” Jonsson told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.

Judith C. Gasson, director of the Jonsson Cancer Center, said Jonsson was a passionate supporter of cancer research and often visited the center personally for updates on the latest advances.

“When Ken Jonsson and his family made their initial investment in cancer research at UCLA in 1967 they were visionaries in the truest sense of the word,” said Gasson, who serves as president of the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation. “They were investing in the possibility that research would lead to improved ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer during their lifetime and beyond. Because of their investment in UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the lives of cancer patients and families around the world have been improved dramatically. Much remains to be done and the work continues.”

Jonsson studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after graduation worked for Texas Instruments, Inc., a company founded by his father. He started out as a production manager and later moved into sales. He eventually became western regional sales manager, which brought the family to California. He worked for the company for 11 years, before moving to a small electronics firm. Jonsson later founded his own company.

The Jonssons moved to Pacific Palisades in 1959 and raised their family there. Jonsson and his wife, Diana Gordon Jonsson, also a dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of the Jonsson Cancer Center, were married for 53 years before her death in 2006.

Jonsson is survived by four children, Mark, Mike, Erik and Anne, and eight grandchildren.

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