Origins of the Blood & Tissue Center Foundation

April 2, 2019

Legally, The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation began on Aug. 19, 2002 when a charter was filed with the state of Texas.

But the origins date to Valentine’s Day, 1993, when a small group of local dignitaries and officials of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center broke ground on a new facility for the center on Interstate 10. The date was noteworthy because the double hearts had been the organization’s logo for more than 20 years, including its time in the 1920s-era YWCA building in downtown San Antonio.

The new facility opened in 1994 with 80,000 square feet of space that included a state-of-the-art laboratory, donor collection rooms, offices and meeting spaces. It was financed in large part by a tax-exempt bond financed by USAA.

A 40,000-square-foot addition to the facility in 2001 led to a capital campaign, which was led by Mary Beth Fisk, vice president of education and outreach.

Among the many people she contacted during her search was Dr. Russ Norman, who was one of the key contributors to the founding of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center (CTRC) in San Antonio. The two became friends, and one day, Norman gave Fisk the idea that led to the formation of The Foundation.

“Mary Beth,” he told her, “you need to have a foundation that raises money on an ongoing basis, not just a capital campaign, for the blood bank.”

And so, beginning in December 2001, Norman and his wife Karen, along with local attorney Mike Kreager and his wife Emily, began meeting on a monthly basis. The group soon added Dennis Stahl and the blood center’s CEO, Norman Kalmin. In September 2002, about 40 people committed to joining the newly chartered foundation’s board, and the first meeting was conducted in October 2002.

Two events helped transform The Foundation in its early days.

First, a group of women on the board decided to hold a ball to raise funds. The first Red and White Ball had the theme “Fire and Ice,” and since then, it has become one of the highlights of social life in San Antonio.

The second event was the founding of what became known as the Texas Cord Blood Bank. The TCBB was established with a $1 million grant from the state of Texas, and an additional $3.5 million public-private match from the state was set up later.

Matching that grant led to the creation, funding and expansion of the TCBB, the state repository for stem cell donations.


The Foundation has continued to raise funds since then, funding projects in STBTC and GenCure. To date, The Foundation has brought in more than $29 million.

More from our blog:

CTRL meeting needs of cellular therapy industry

R&D develops BBG capabilities

Looking back: The BBG art collection