When she was just a baby, Pine Bluff native Patricia Johnson lost her father J.E. Evans to cancer. He was 35, and she was just 15 months old. Although she never got to know him, “My entire life I’ve been told what a great man he was, and that he loved his wife and children dearly,” she says.

This very personal connection to cancer is one of the reasons Johnson joined the board of the University of Arkansas at Medical Sciences (UAMS) Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute (WRCI) earlier this year. “I’ve identified it as a way to honor my father,” she says.

One of five children, Johnson graduated from Texas Southern University in Houston and began her banking career in the early 1980s at National Bank of Commerce in Pine Bluff (now Bank of America). Ten years later she joined U.S. Bank in Portland, but moved back to Arkansas in 1994 to be closer to family. Since 2000, Johnson has been the vice president and senior relationship manager for U.S. Bank’s Private Banking Division in Little Rock.

She and her husband Dr. Carl Johnson have three children, Elager, Jessica and Brandon. She also has many nieces and nephews, one of whom readers may recognize. “One of my nephews, Kenny Evans, is a track and field Olympian who represented the U.S. in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. He was also inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. I guess you could call me a proud aunt,” she beams.

Although a banker by day, Johnson is no stranger to volunteer work after-hours and on the weekends. She was the first female member of the Pine Bluff Northside Kiwanis, is a current member of Volunteers in Public Schools and also volunteers for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce membership drive. In her newest role as a board member for the WRCI, Johnson has signed on for her biggest, most significant volunteer project yet: committee member for the Institute’s largest fundraising event, the Gala for Life.

Held annually, the black-tie Gala for Life is one of the most anticipated social events of the season, the proceeds of which benefit cancer research. The evening includes a reception and silent auction, followed by a four-course dinner, a live auction and dancing and entertainment. The gala is known for bringing in phenomenal music acts, and this year – with Grammy Award-winning KC and The Sunshine Band performing – is no exception. Attendees will dance into the wee hours to hits like, “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “Shake Your Booty.”

The festivities will kick off on Friday, Sept. 21, with a 5:30 p.m. VIP reception at the Capital Hotel, followed by the gala at 6:30 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center. Tickets are $500 per person.

Dr. Laura Hutchins, director of the UAMS Division of Hematology/Oncology, is this year’s recipient of the Pat and Willard Walker Tribute Award. Revered for her clinical cancer research and patient care, Dr. Hutchins holds the Virginia Clinton Kelley Endowed Chair for Clinical Breast Cancer Research. In addition to breast cancer, her research interests focus on melanoma, immunotherapy and biologic therapy.

William and Christy Clark are the gala co-chairs. William – CEO and owner of Clark Contractors – lost his father Bill Clark to cancer, and Christy is a breast cancer survivor.

As a gala committee member, Johnson has had her hands full for months, securing donations and solidifying plans for this colossal event. But she’s also been having fun and anticipating a highly successful turnout. “I am happy to be even a small part of this wonderful organization whose mission is to fight, and one day eradicate, all cancer.”

2012 Gala for Life  
when: 6:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 21
where: Statehouse Convention Center
tickets: $500 per person
info: 526-2277, Cancer.UAMS.edu/Gala