It’s impossible to be around Tom Johnson and Wayne Gibbens without wondering what they’re up to. With regular outbursts of laughter and twinkles in their eyes, their zest for life is contagious.
But their playful manner is supplemented by a passion for making life better for others, and MD Anderson is fortunate to have such dedicated supporters as Board of Visitors members.
The friendship begins
Though miles apart now (Johnson, retired president of CNN in Atlanta, and Gibbens, active in the oil and gas business and living on a farm in Middleburg, Va.), their friendship began in Washington, D.C., in 1965 when Johnson was a White House Fellow working in then President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration and Gibbens was representing then Texas Governor John Connally.
“We’ve traveled the world together,” Johnson says. “We’ve gone on many vacations and have countless stories. I don’t have any brothers — Wayne’s like a brother to me.”
So, when Gibbens asked Johnson to join the Board of Visitors, Johnson did it solely as a favor for his friend.
They believe in the mission
“I was overloaded with responsibilities when Wayne asked me to join the board,” Johnson says. “However, after my initial visit to MD Anderson, I became increasingly impressed by its focus on patient care and the humanity of the institution. I saw firsthand the magnificent care that MD Anderson provides those who are battling cancer.”
Gibbens’ involvement with MD Anderson began decades earlier.
“My wife, Beth, and I were engaged when she was diagnosed with (what was supposed to be) terminal cancer. That was 47 years ago.
MD Anderson gave us life,” says Gibbens, whose wife survived. “When I was asked to join the Board of Visitors in 1981, I wholeheartedly accepted.”
Gibbens and Johnson also have been active fundraisers for events in Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta.
“I’m very proud I joined the board,” Johnson says. “I’ve gotten more out of it than I’ve put into it. I can’t think of any mission that’s more inspirational than eliminating cancer. We have a common goal to battle with every ounce of our energy and effort.”
And his friend, Gibbens, is glad he enticed Johnson to join the board. “I know the kind of person he is. He’s passionate about causes he believes in, enthusiastic, and he offers great value to this cancer center.”
“I’m going to do the very best I can do,” Johnson says. “I just signed up for my second term.”