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Heirs apparent

MD Anderson Foundation board members nurture a heritage of historic proportions

Promise - Fall 2012

By Ruhee Momin

More than 75 years ago, one man’s vision inspired the origins of MD Anderson. Today, the board members of the MD Anderson Foundation enthusiastically continue that philanthropic tradition.

In 1907, Monroe D. Anderson, a successful banker and businessman from Jackson, Tenn., moved to Houston, where he and his partners in Anderson, Clayton and Co. oversaw what would become the world’s largest cotton merchant. In 1936, he established the MD Anderson Foundation with $300,000 and the commitment of two other trustees, John H. Freeman, and William B. Bates.  Anderson died in 1939, leaving a fortune to the foundation.

Patients fill MD Anderson’s first waiting room at the Baker Estate 
in this archive photo featuring a white-capped Anna Hanselman 
at the telephone.

The foundation’s purposes, according to the charter, include “the establishment, support and maintenance of hospitals, homes and institutions for the care of the sick” and “the promotion of health, science, education and advancement and diffusion of knowledge.” Its first major step in fulfilling those goals occurred in 1941, when the Texas legislature appropriated $500,000 to establish a cancer research hospital in the state (see related sidebar). Thanks to the foundation’s proposal to match those funds and its stipulation that the hospital be located in Houston and bear its founder’s name, the institution now known as The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was born.

Today, four board members head the MD Anderson Foundation: Charles Hall, Gibson Gayle Jr., Uriel Dutton and Leo Linbeck Jr. Gus Blackshear serves as advisory director.  

President Charles Hall has more than an administrative relationship with MD Anderson. His daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at MD Anderson. Though she succumbed to the disease, Hall says he’ll always remember the quality of care that his daughter received and the support MD Anderson provided the entire family.

“We’re indeed fortunate to have MD Anderson, one of the world’s finest organizations, right here in Houston,” he says. “The institution has surpassed the standards set by the foundation’s original trustees.”

Board member Gibson Gayle Jr., a senior member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, has personal ties to the institution as well. He’s been diagnosed with cancer twice, and both times he’s come to MD Anderson for treatment. Gayle’s experience has been so positive that he’s referred more than 200 people in the past 15 years, all of whom express “deep gratitude that they’re treated like family.”

The seven-acre estate of the late Captain James A. Baker, grandfather 
of former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, provided clinical and 
research space for MD Anderson more than 70 years ago. Archive photo

“What makes our cancer center the finest in the world is not only the superb physicians, but also the skill, dedication and care of the support staff,” says Gayle, who served as foundation president from 1990 to 2009.  “The founding members of the MD Anderson Foundation would be proud to see the results of their endeavors of many years ago.”

The foundation supports numerous other charitable and educational institutions. From 1959 to 2011, it made 131 gifts and pledges totaling more than $11,306,000 to MD Anderson. These funds have supported a variety of initiatives, from personalized cancer therapy to post-doctoral fellowships.

Hall describes MD Anderson as nothing short of “exceptional” and says he and fellow board members are proud to be a part of the foundation that helped the institution ― not to mention the 1,300-acre Texas Medical Center ― get its start.

“It’s an honor to be a part of a foundation with such heritage,” he says.

Foundation played significant role

The MD Anderson Foundation’s original board members were Monroe Dunaway Anderson as well as John H. Freeman and William B. Bates, partners in a law firm once known as Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates and Jaworski.

Two years after Anderson’s death in 1939, Freeman, Bates and Horace Wilkins, Anderson’s board successor, decided to establish a medical center in Houston. In 1941, the Texas legislature passed a statute, signed by Gov. W. Lee O’Daniel, establishing the first cancer hospital in Texas and placing it under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents of The University of Texas.  Since the state did not have sufficient funds to build the hospital on its own, Freeman and Bates contacted Gov. O’Daniel and Homer Rainey, president of The University of Texas, and offered to put up the needed funds to build the cancer hospital and to provide a place for it in the Texas Medical Center. The foundation was negotiating with the City of Houston to purchase a 134-acre tract of land.  In the meantime, the cancer center would be set up in property the foundation purchased from Rice University (then known as Rice Institute), the former home of Capt. James A. Baker, grandfather of James A. Baker, III. The only requirement Freeman and Bates insisted on was that Anderson’s name be permanently displayed on the hospital and any other buildings subsequently erected. MD Anderson admitted its first cancer patients at the former Baker home on March 1, 1944.  

— Gibson Gayle Jr.


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