Two sessions: 19 April 2018, 31 May 2018
Total approximate duration: 98 minutes
Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.
For supplementary materials:
Please contact, the Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library:
Javier Garza, MSIS, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Interview Subject:
JoAnne Hale (b. July 1938, Hammock, Missouri) worked as an administrative assistant to three MD Anderson presidents. She came to MD Anderson in 1968 to work as administrative assistant for R. Lee Clark, and was eventually invited to work in the President’s Office for Charles LeMaistre and then for John Mendelsohn. She has a unique perspective on these three executive leaders and on the workings of the President’s Office. She retired in 2005 and, since 2010 has worked as a part time administrative assistant in Clinical Cancer Prevention.
Major Topics Covered:
Education and personal background
Overview of administrative duties for R. Lee Clark, Charles LeMaistre, and John Mendelsohn
Observations about the organization and function of the President’s Office
Transitions between presidents
Personal views of Drs. Clark, LeMaistre, and Mendelsohn
Work culture and working environment for administrative assistants
About transcription and the transcript:
This interview had been transcribed according to oral history best practices to preserve the conversational quality of spoken language (rather than editing it to written standards).
The interview subject has been given the opportunity to review the transcript and make changes: any substantial departures from the audio file are indicated with brackets [ ].
In addition, the Archives may have redacted portions of the transcript and audio file in compliance with HIPAA and/or interview subject requests.
Interview Session One: 19 April 2018
A Path to Houston and Work in the President’s Office
Chapter 01 / Personal Background
The President’s Office Under R. Lee Clark
Chapter 02 / Overview
Key Activities Under R. Lee Clark
Chapter 03 / Building the Institution
Changes Under Charles A. LeMaistre, MD
Chapter 04 / Building the Institution
John Mendelsohn and the President’s Office
Chapter 05 / Overview
Interview Session Two: 31 May 2018
Significant Accomplishments Under Each President
Chapter 07 / Building the Institution
Working on Dr. LeMaistre’s Book and Thoughts about Hierarchies and Retirement
Chapter 08 / Overview
Interview Session One: April 19, 2018 (listen/read)
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 01 (Personal Background)
A Path to Houston and the President’s Office (listen/read)
Ms. Hale begins this chapter by sketching her family background, her education in a one-room school, and her early secretarial experience at Monsanto that made her application attractive once she moved to Houston and started looking for employment at MD Anderson.
Chapter 02 (Overview)
The President’s Office Under R. Lee Clark (listen/read)
In this chapter, Ms. Hale provides a snapshot of how the President’s Office worked under R. Lee Clark. She notes that he was “very hands on.” As an example of Dr. Clark’s political effectiveness, she tells a story about how staff researched the backgrounds of significant patients and briefed Dr. Clark about them prior to his trips to Austin, so he could mention specific individuals to legislators. She notes that the development office was created under Dr. Clark and explains her own role of keeping up with all faculty records. She also talks about her own growing commitment to MD Anderson’s mission. She talks about staff office politics.
Chapter 03 (Building the Institution)
Key Activities Under R. Lee Clark (listen/read)
Fundraising, Philanthropy, Donations, Volunteers
MD Anderson History MD Anderson Snapshot
MD Anderson Culture
Building/Transforming the Institution
Growth and/or Change
Ms. Hale talks about some key accomplishments under R. Lee Clark: selling land to raise funds to build the Lutheran Pavilion breaking ground on the Bastrop research location increased activities once Nixon declared the War on Cancer. Ms. Hale notes that her work for Dr. Clark shifted focus over the years: she spent more time working with international organizations as Dr. Clark was increasingly invited overseas to speak. She tells a story to demonstrate how Dr. Clark “would make a statement and have to make it true.” She shares other comments about his character and lists some of the individuals with whom he worked closely.
Chapter 04 (Building the Institution)
Changes Under Charles A. LeMaistre, MD (listen/read)
Ms. Hale begins this chapter by explaining that when Dr. LeMaistre assumed MD Anderson’s presidency, she stayed on with Dr. Clark until 1981 before transferring to the president’s office. She notes changes to the office under Dr. LeMaistre, who was a more distant administrator than Dr. Clark, with activities more focused on MD Anderson. She offers observations about Dr. LeMaistre and observes that Dr. LeMaistre “brought us together like a family” as well as greatly increasing fundraising.
Chapter 05 (Overview)
John Mendelsohn and the President’s Office (listen/read)
Ms. Hale begins this chapter by explaining how she coordinated meetings with candidates for president of MD Anderson when Dr. LeMaistre decided to step down. She then talks about the transitions in the president’s office once Dr. John Mendelsohn took over. She notes that he had a very different temperament (a “researcher’s temperament”). As an example of the transition and intra-office communication, she explains how the staff was operating according to procedures established by Dr. LeMaistre, and Dr. Mendelsohn had to become aware of these policies and the rationale for them.
She tells a story about Dr. Mendelsohn carrying a reminder card to help him be collegial. She also comments on a shift in Dr. Mendelsohn’s persona during his first years at the institution. She notes some challenges he faced.
[Equipment failure at 53:13, “treat people and be kind.”]
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 06 (Overview)
Thoughts on the Presidents’ Communication Styles the Challenge of Working in the Office of the President (listen/read)
Ms. Hale begins this chapter with some observations about Dr. John Mendelsohn’s temperament and how he grew into the social dimensions of his role over the course of his presidency.
Next she shares her observations about differences among the presidents’ communication styles. She also discusses the challenges of working in the Office of the President and comments on how better communication patterns could have made work run more smoothly. Finally, she reflects on the power that an administrative assistant has in an executive office. She gives examples of how quickly things would get done when she was assistant to Dr. LeMaistre (1978 – 1981) and how she felt her power dissipate when he stepped down from the presidency.
Chapter 07 (Building the Institution)
Significant Accomplishments Under Each President (listen/read)
In this chapter, Ms. Hale identifies some of the primary achievements under each president. She notes that Dr. Clark was particularly concerned about the overall health of MD Anderson employees. She also tells anecdotes to illustrate his difficulty remembering names. She comments on the support Dr. LeMaistre was able to create for basic researchers via the PRS system. She talks about Dr. Mendelsohn requiring that faculty generate 30% of their salary via grants. She also tells anecdotes to demonstrate the Dr. Mendelsohn and his wife, Anne Mendelsohn, functioned as a team.
Chapter 08 (Overview)
Working on Dr. LeMaistre’s Book and Thoughts about Hierarchies and Retirement (listen/read)
Ms. Hale begins this chapter talking about what motivated her to retire in 2005. She then sketches her work with Dr. LeMaistre (2006 – 2008) on his book about the first surgeon general’s report on cancer and smoking.
Next she talks about returning to the institution in 2010 at first in a volunteer capacity, filing for Clinical Cancer Prevention. She talks about sifting to a part time position and reflects on the value of having past employees come back to work for the institution. Next she reflects on the position of women at MD Anderson and gives examples of how education was the biggest factor in determining the hierarchy among the administrative staff.
Finally, Ms. Hale talks about her involvement in the MD Anderson Retirees organization.