Kenneth Alan Jonsson dies at 79; co-founder of cancer center at UCLA

From A Times Staff Writer

Kenneth Alan Jonsson, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who co-founded the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA, died March 15 at his home in Pacific Palisades.

He had been in declining health for several months after a hospital stay in December, his family said. He was 79.

Jonsson, the son of Texas Instruments co-founder John Erik Jonsson, and his late wife, Diana, were longtime supporters of cancer research.

In 1975, the Jonssons donated $1 million to UCLA for a new cancer research center to be named for the family. The couple had made cancer research one of their major causes in the 1960s, and they contributed millions more to UCLA as the decades passed.


Known as Ken, Jonsson served on the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation’s board of directors for 43 years, including several years as board president in the 1970s, and was a trustee of the UCLA Foundation.

Elsewhere, he served as a trustee at Harvey Mudd College, where he and his wife established an endowment for a math professorship, and was a member of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Sciences.

Born Jan. 5, 1931, in New Jersey, Jonsson studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After graduating in 1952, he went to work for Texas Instruments as a production manager in Dallas. When he became Western regional sales manager for the electronics manufacturer, he moved his family to California.


In 1955, he started his own firm, Jonsson Communications Corp., which operated radio stations, cable TV outlets and magazines in California and Nevada.

Jonsson and his wife started the Kenneth Jonsson Family Foundation to support medical research and higher education.

Jonsson’s wife of 53 years died in 2006.

He is survived by three sons, Erik of Portland, Ore., Mark of El Macero, Calif., and Mike of Sacramento; a daughter, Anne of Rolling Hills Estates; a brother, Philip of Little Rock, Ark.; a sister, Margaret J. Rogers of Dallas; and eight grandchildren.