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Following the loss earlier this year of Connie Roads – mother-in-law and mother to Victor and Allison Kats, and grandmother to their four children – the Kats family decided to honor Connie’s life with a 2023 Tar Heal Tuesday Challenge Gift.

Tar Heal Tuesday (THT), which took place this year on November 28th, is UNC’s annual Giving Day event to raise funds for UNC Health and School of Medicine. Over the years, thousands of individuals and dozens of groups have raised funds on this day for causes that are close to their hearts. This year, the Kats family led a fundraising challenge with family members, friends and colleagues all joining to honor Connie, who waged a determined battle with cancer.

photos showing Connie Roads
Connie Roads was a devoted Tar Heel and a longtime middle school science teacher.

A Caring Middle School Teacher and Committed Tar Heel

Connie became a devoted Tar Heel after moving with her husband Mike Roads (UNC ’71) from Florida to North Carolina, and she enjoyed many visits with her family to the Old Well, Kenan Stadium, the Dean Dome, Top of the Hill and other iconic Chapel Hill destinations. An inspiring science teacher in Charlotte for over 20 years, Connie was devoted to teaching middle school students, with a particular passion for science projects and research.

She was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in 2016. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, with the leukemia cells starting in bone marrow before entering the blood.

“My mother touched the lives of many students, families and friends in North Carolina and across the U.S. We wanted to extend this opportunity to many others, and Tar Heal Tuesday was a wonderful way to do that,” said Allison Kats.

The Kats’ THT Challenge raised more than $20,000, which will support blood cancer research through UNC Lineberger’s Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Program.

Research to Advance CLL – and Unravel Its Complications

While there have been several breakthrough drugs and therapies, the chronic and slow-growing nature of CLL requires additional research to continue to advance health outcomes for patients.

“We wanted to do something targeted to Connie’s journey with this disease and its complications,” said Vic Kats. “The chronic nature of CLL requires ongoing blood draws, lab tests and interpretations of how the current regimen is working. Research is critical to understand how to make the right adjustments at the right time.”

Allison also stressed the significant role of research and further funding. “Research is so vital to the broader understanding of breakthrough therapies for CLL and its complications. We want UNC Lineberger to continue to lead in the advancement of managing, and eventually curing, this disease.”

The Kats family led a 2023 Tar Heal Tuesday Challenge
The Kats family led a 2023 Tar Heal Tuesday Challenge to honor Connie Roads.

The Kats family knows Connie would be honored that their Tar Heal Tuesday Challenge will fund important research that could make a difference for future patients diagnosed with CLL.

“She was the heartbeat of our family,” said Allison. “Her legacy will live on through this research, and she would be honored to know that her life will advance the treatment of CLL.”

For more information on supporting UNC Lineberger’s Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Program, please contact Kristen Duggleby, Director of Development, at 919-966-3986, or via email at

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