LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Ernie Dunlevie, one of the founding fathers of the 1960 Palm Springs Golf Classic, the golf tournament currently known as the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, died Sunday night due to complications from cancer at the age of 96.
Dunlevie was the last surviving founding board member of the tournament and served as the tournament's president five times. He also served on the original board of the Eisenhower Medical Center.
Born in New York City and a World War II veteran, Dunlevie spent most of his life in the Coachella Valley and left an indelible legacy in the area. He had a passion for golf and became one of Arnold Palmer's closest friends after that first Palm Springs Golf Classic in 1960. He played an integral role in incorporating iconic entertainer Bob Hope with the golf tournament, as it was renamed the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1965.
Dunlevie also was instrumental in helping to develop Bermuda Dunes Country Club (which included Bermuda Dunes Airport and a Racquet Club, now Murph's Gaslight Restaurant) and Eisenhower Medical Center. Since 1960, Desert Classic Charities, the non-profit entity that organizes the Humana Challenge, has donated more than $52 million to Eisenhower Medical Center and numerous other non-profit organizations in the Coachella Valley.
John Foster, Humana Challenge President and Chairman of the Board, called Dunlevie "A visionary entrepreneur that helped develop the Coachella Valley. He was loved by all, with the quickest of wit, and a gentleman to the end. An American hero from the `Greatest Generation,' and one of the greatest men I've had the privilege to call my dear friend."
"Mr. Dunlevie, through his vision, dedication and love of his fellow man, helped conceive and build a professional golf tournament that literally changed the cultural and economic fabric of our desert communities," Humana Challenge Executive Director and CEO Bob Marra said. "He is one of the all-time great local legends who will always be remembered with respect and gratitude."
"We are saddened by the passing of Ernie Dunlevie," said Bruce Broussard, President and Chief Executive Officer of Humana. "As a founder and past president of the tournament who participated as an active member of the board of directors for decades, his contributions to the Coachella Valley community and the PGA TOUR have been enormous. We are most grateful for his dedicated work and passion on behalf of the tournament."
Said PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem: "We were saddened to hear the news today of Ernie Dunlevie's passing. Ernie played such a dynamic role in the creation, growth and impact of what is now the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, from the recruitment of Bob Hope to lend his name to the tournament to the critical role the event played in the development of the Eisenhower Medical Center. Ernie was a friend to the PGA TOUR and many of our players throughout the years and he will be missed. We wish to express our sincere condolences to his family."
After graduating high school in 1936, Dunlevie and his mother drove cross-country to Palm Springs to visit artist friends who spent the winter painting in the desert. They never left. Prior to World War II, Dunlevie held an assortment of jobs in the Palm Springs area at different times, delivering groceries on a bicycle, working at a gas station, driving a truck during the construction of Palm Springs Airport, and working in the men's department of Bullocks Wilshire and Desmonds
After the war, Dunlevie earned his real estate license and opened his own office on North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. His clients included Howard Hughes, Cary Grant, Fernando Lamas and Ava Gardner, among others, and he also befriended Clark Gable through his involvement at Bermuda Dunes.
Dunlevie is survived by his beloved wife of 31 years, Joy, four sons and six grandchildren, among other family members.
About Humana Inc.
Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a leading health care company that offers a wide range of insurance products and health and wellness services that incorporate an integrated approach to lifelong well-being. By leveraging the strengths of its core businesses, Humana believes it can better explore opportunities for existing and emerging adjacencies in health care that can further enhance wellness opportunities for the millions of people across the nation with whom the company has relationships.
More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company's website at www.humana.com.
About the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation
The Clinton Foundation works to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results. Since 2001, the Clinton Foundation's work has resulted in more than 5 million people benefiting from lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment; more than 18,000 U.S. schools building healthier learning environments; more than 55,000 micro-entrepreneurs, small business owners, and smallholder farmers improving their livelihoods and communities; and more than 248 million tons of CO2 being reduced in cities around the world.
And Clinton Global Initiative members have made more than 2,300 commitments that are improving the lives of more than 400 million people in more than 180 countries. For more information, visit clintonfoundation.org, read our blog at clintonfoundation.org/upclose, and follow us on Twitter @ClintonFdn.
Since its inception, Desert Classic Charities, the charitable entity that organizes the Humana Challenge, has contributed more than $52 million to the Eisenhower Medical Center and surrounding Coachella Valley nonprofit organizations. Its scope of giving is broad and includes structured and mentoring programs for children, social services, and food and safe shelter for the less fortunate. Desert Classic Charities is dedicated to continuing its mission to serve human needs in the Coachella Valley and beyond by generating funds and opportunities through the Humana Challenge.
About PGA TOUR
The PGA TOUR is the world's premier membership organization for touring professional golfers, co-sanctioning 120 tournaments on the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Canada.
The PGA TOUR's mission is to entertain and inspire its fans, deliver substantial value to its partners, create outlets for volunteers to give back, generate significant charitable and economic impact in the communities in which it plays, and provide financial opportunities for TOUR players.
Worldwide, PGA TOUR tournaments are broadcast to nearly 945 million households in 225 countries and territories in 32 languages. Virtually all tournaments are organized as non-profit organizations in order to maximize charitable giving. In 2012, tournaments across all Tours generated more than $130 million for local charitable organizations, and the TOUR's all-time total of charitable contributions has reached $1.86 billion.
The PGA TOUR's website is PGATOUR.COM, the No. 1 site in golf, and the organization is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.