MORGANTOWN—A long-time supporter of both West Virginia University and WVU Medicine, Betty Puskar died on Sunday at the age of 80 at her home in Morgantown.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, Puskar battled the disease and was determined to build a breast care treatment facility in Morgantown so that others would not have to leave home to get the care they deserved after she herself had to seek treatment in Texas. In 1994, she bestowed the first ever donation towards establishing the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center. A division of the WVU Cancer Institute, the Center provides comprehensive breast care for women in West Virginia and the surrounding areas.
“West Virginia University has lost a great friend in Betty Puskar, but her legacy will live on in the lives she has helped save or prolong through her advocacy and support of women’s health,” said WVU President Gordon Gee. “The Betty Puskar Breast Care Center is but one result of her philanthropy and commitment to the betterment of our community. West Virginia University and West Virginia will always be grateful for her lively and generous spirit.”
“Betty Puskar was a generational leader for WVU, the WVU Cancer Institute, and the state of West Virginia,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, Vice President and Executive Dean for WVU Health Sciences. “Betty showed all of us the power of grace, love, caring, and service to others in promoting healing. She helped countless numbers of patients and inspired everyone in the power of selfless service to others.”
Known in the area as the “First Lady of Morgantown,” Puskar was West Virginia’s number one advocate for the war against cancer. She was born in a rural area near Covington, Virginia, and was the fourth of eight brothers and sisters. She graduated from Covington Business College and met Milan “Mike” Puskar soon after. The couple eventually married and had a daughter, Johanna. She worked tirelessly to support her former husband’s endeavors to create an independent drug company which eventually led to the founding of the company now known as Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
“Betty Puskar will always be a hero to the women of West Virginia,” expressed Dr. Hannah HazardJenkins, interim director of the WVU Cancer Institute. “There aren’t many she has not touched, whether directly at the breast center she founded, championed, and supported for all those years, or indirectly through her advocacy for women’s access to high quality breast cancer screening and treatment. For me, she embodies what survivorship is - living life to the fullest, embracing what was dealt to her, and maximizing her ability to influence others to improve the healthcare for West Virginians. The WVU Cancer Institute lost an ally and most importantly, a friend. We will miss her tremendously and vow to honor her legacy as we advocate for and deliver cutting edge cancer care across West Virginia.”
Puskar was a member of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center Board of Advisors and a charter member of the Foundation’s Woodburn Circle Society. She founded the Betty Puskar Futures LPGA Golf Tournament that was held at the Pines Country Club for 17 years and its accompanying fashion show that was held for 15 years. She made frequent public appearances to give encouragement to those suffering from cancer, especially terminally-ill patients.
“Betty Puskar was a fierce advocate for breast cancer patients in West Virginia and a loyal friend to WVU Medicine,” said Albert L. Wright, Jr., President and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System. “Not only did she support the WVU Cancer Institute financially and with her time, she also supported several other programs, including WVU Children’s Medicine. We will miss her personality, her generosity, and most importantly, her friendship. There will never be another person like Betty Puskar. It was a pleasure to have known her.”