Poole-born businessman Robert White was treated for cancer at the Dorset Cancer Centre, part of Poole Hospital. Sadly, Robert, aged 62, lost his battle in November last year. Before his death, he had resolved to support the hospital and its county-wide cancer services to benefit others and he decided he would fund a new cancer wing which is to be named the ‘The Robert White Cancer Centre’.
The Robert White Cancer Centre is a new £7 million satellite radiotherapy unit to be built at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, operated by Poole Hospital’s Dorset Cancer Centre team. The unit, which is due to welcome its first patients by the end of next year, will significantly reduce the journey time that people in the west of the county currently face in travelling to Poole for this vital treatment. Robert was eager to see the commencement of his legacy within his own lifetime and decided to sell his prized lifetime collection of Brough Superior vintage motorcycles so that he could make a substantial donation to Poole Hospital. He approached one of his close friends, Jay Leno, the US chat show king and comedian, who agreed to purchase the collection. Shortly after the sale, Robert made a donation of £3.5 million to Poole Hospital so that work on The Robert White Cancer Centre could commence.
Robert was an avid collector and some of his possessions, including other vintage motorcycles, classic cars, automobilia, Leica cameras, Lalique decorative arts and mascots and rare watches will be auctioned with all proceeds going to Poole Hospital. The sale will be at Bonhams London auction house on 19 September and is expected to raise more than £2m.
Robert founded Robert White Photographic Limited in 1982 in a small shop in Poole, before growing the business into an international success, with customers from all over the world.
It is now possible to publicly recognise Robert’s incredible philanthropy, having requested anonymity prior to the announcement of the Bonhams auction.
It is estimated that the total value of Robert’s legacy to Poole Hospital, part of which comprises proceeds from the Bonhams auction, will be in the region of £10 million.
Debbie Fleming, chief executive of Poole Hospital, said: “I am so pleased that we are now able to formally acknowledge the incredible generosity shown by Mr White to the trust and local people. On behalf of the board, our staff and our patients, I should like to place on record our immense gratitude to him for choosing to support cancer services in this way.
“We know that Poole Hospital and its staff are highly regarded, and we are always grateful for the many gifts that enable us to further develop our services. Every donation to the hospital – large or small, in time, money or expertise - is important in helping us to give patients and visitors the best possible experience.
“On this occasion, with such a very significant donation and legacy, Robert White’s immense generosity has enabled us to make a real step change in the development of cancer services in Dorset. We are truly indebted to him.”
Describing his friend, Mr Leno said: “He didn’t feel sorry for himself or ‘woe-is-me’. He realistically faced up to his position and decided he wanted to give something back to the people in Poole Hospital who had helped him with his illness.”
This legacy will also fund new state-of-the-art equipment at Poole Hospital, including a new CT scanner to help accurately identify cancer sites and a permanent PET scanner for highly detailed imaging of tumours and their response to treatment, which will replace a mobile facility currently in use.
It will also support staff working in cancer care at the hospital, through education and training bursaries that will ensure clinicians and other professionals have access to the latest teaching and best practice.
Dr Mike Bayne, a consultant oncologist at Poole Hospital, treated Robert until his death.
Mike said: “The impact that Mr White’s incredible generosity will have on patients facing cancer in Dorset cannot be overstated.
“This lasting legacy will continue to benefit patients and their families for years to come, enabling the people of Dorset to receive the very latest and most effective diagnoses and treatments for a range of cancers, and supporting our skilled clinicians and nursing teams to be among the most advanced in the country.
“Robert White will forever be associated with advances in cancer care in the county, and on behalf of our patients I would like to express our heartfelt thanks.”
Hugh Turvey ASIS HonFRPS