Founded on a promise of superior care close to home, the Cancer Center has grown to become a regional powerhouse providing patients with exceptional, comprehensive cancer care. In 1949, Lillian Converse was treated for terminal cancer, and travel to Los Angeles for her treatments was difficult. Though she knew there was little chance of her own recovery, she wanted to help others with the disease. Her physician, Dr. Henry Ullmann, dreamed of having a one-million-volt x-ray machine—one of seven in the nation—to help treat cancer patients in Santa Barbara. Lillian’s husband, Elisha Converse, made this dream a reality by making a generous gift in memory of his wife, establishing the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara as the leading provider of cancer care on the central coast. The support initiated by Elisha has grown into a community tradition, and his pioneering vision for state-of-the-art cancer care in Santa Barbara has blossomed into a facility with a 68-year history of advancing the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure of cancer for patients in our community regardless of means. While the institution’s name has morphed over the decades (Memorial Cancer Foundation, Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic, and now Ridley-Tree Cancer Center) the commitment to quality cancer care for all Santa Barbara residents never waned.
In 2012, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and Sansum Clinic forged a strategic partnership, and out of this union emerged the stand-alone Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara, the financial backbone of the Cancer Center since its inception.
In 2017, a new comprehensive cancer center was constructed that combined three locations into one. Philanthropist Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree provided the leading gift for the new facility and the name of the institution was changed to honor her support.
For the past 70 years, thanks to the generosity of patients, foundations and community members, the Cancer Foundation and its trustees have provided steadfast vision, leadership and support to ensure superior cancer care is available in Santa Barbara.