Chapter 02: Public Affairs: Working Closely with MD Anderson Presidents

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Chapter 02: Public Affairs: Working Closely with MD Anderson Presidents

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Mr. Stuyck describes the work he did promoting awareness of the new medical school (University of Texas Medical School) until 1975, when he was made Director of MD Anderson's Department of Public Information. He explains why the rapidly growing institution needed such a Department at that time and why Dr. R. Lee Clark offered him the job [the letter mentioned is reproduced in Steve Stuyck: The MD Anderson Years]. He talks about Dr. Glen Knots, to whom Mr. Stuyck reported, and the lessons he learned from him about management and leadership. He then explains why, in 1981, Dr. Charles LeMaistre arranged for Mr. Stuyck to report directly to him. He tells a story about a speech he volunteered to write for Dr. LeMaistre when he had to testify in Washington D.C. about the deaths of several patients, and how pleased Dr. LeMaistre was with his work.

Mr. Stuyck explains the particular abilities he was able to bring to MD Anderson and to the institution's presidents. In addition to being a good editor of others' work, Mr. Stuyck describes himself as a strong writer about MD Anderson and about cancer, with a skill to commit issues to paper. He had a special sense of Dr. Charles LeMaistre's way of expressing himself and could capture it. (Mr. Stuyck says that "I could hear him saying the words from the podium.) He notes that the archives have about 700 speeches that he wrote over the course of his career.

Mr. Stuyck describes the exhausting schedule of working with Dr. LeMaistre's speech trips and notes that, when Dr. John Mendelsohn arrived, it was agreed that Mr. Stuyck would not write his speeches.

Mr. Stuyck then tells several anecdotes to demonstrate what he learned about leadership from Dr. Charles LeMaistre. In particular, he mentions Dr. LeMaistre's habit of encouraging people who worked for him.

Mr. Stuyck recalls that Governor Bill Clemmons shouted at him during a visit, and Dr. LeMaistre phoned him later in the evening to tell him not to worry about it. Next he speaks briefly about Dr. John Mendelsohn, noting that he was just what the institution needed at the time. Dr. Mendelsohn promoted Mr. Stuyck to Vice President of Public Affairs.

Mr. Stuyck notes that he had thirty years of working with great bosses and great leaders.

Identifier

StuyckSC_01_20130611_C02

Publication Date

6-11-2013

Topics Covered

Personal Background; Overview; Definitions, Explanations, Translations; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Portraits; Leadership; On Leadership; Collaborations; MD Anderson History; Evolution of Career; Professional Path; Building/Transforming the Institution; Growth and/or Change; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Skills, Talents, Gifts; Portraits; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose; Professional Practice

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So tell me about that first job. What were your responsibilities and your roles?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Okay. Well, I was responsible for media relations, communications, and publications primarily for the UT Medical School. I was a shop of one person—one person assigned to that task—and there were only about fifty or sixty employees at the UT Medical School at the time. It was brand new. It just got—had taken its first class. And I did some work for MD Anderson—a lot of writing and media relations sorts of things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now what was the mission of this particular office?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

As I look back—it’s so long ago, but it was promoting awareness. It was such a simpler time, but it was promoting awareness of UT components in Houston and helping with resource development for them. It was brand new, so the community was not aware that there was a UT Medical School in Houston. Sometimes I’m not even sure today, all these years later, that they’re particularly—that the city is particularly aware of it forty years later. But I had a great boss—a woman named Jane Brandenberger, who was the director of Public Information. And there were probably about seven or eight of us in the department. Jane left in the summer of 1975 to go to Texas Tech University, and this is what I mean about serendipity. I was twenty-nine years old, and they made me the director of Public Information. This would never happen today.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now that was 1979?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

No, it was 1975.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, so—oh, okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

When we made the switch was in the summer of ’75, and they made me the director. And I thought—I couldn’t believe that this would happen. I’d been here about—I’d been here about three and a half years at that time, and I was just like—I was going to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now tell me—because I assume that at this moment was when that split occurred.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Okay. So what was the reason for making that split? And then how did you fit into all of that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I think the reason for making the split was that all agreed—including those of us in the office—that it really wasn’t working well to have our energies directed in so many—focused in so many different directions. MD Anderson was growing. It had just been made a comprehensive cancer center, and it had communications needs that those smaller institutions really did not have.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Such as?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, there was just—there was more money to be raised. There were more employees to be recruited. We had a national profile that the others didn’t have. There were media opportunities that didn’t exist for the others. There was a big fund raising drive underway to raise money for the Lutheran Pavilion and the Plant Building. It was quite a bit. It was really quite different, and the two presidents didn’t get along that well—Dr. [R. Lee] Clark and Dr. Charles A. Berry—and it was a maturation sort of a thing. It was time, I think, for a change. So they hired a director at the Health Science Center who came from Channel 13, as a matter of fact. And then Dr. Clark offered the job to me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And why do you think he did that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I don’t know, now that I look back on it. Jim Olson [author of Making Cancer History] found a memo—I don’t know if you saw this or not—where my former boss had written a memo to Dr. Clark about me, and Dr. Clark had scrawled something on the side. I had never seen that—was not aware of that until Jim brought it to me thirty-five or forty years later. It just flabbergasted me. I had worked hard and I thought I was good at what I did, but I wasn’t expecting this. And then they brought a guy in—Dr. Glen Knotts, who came here from Kent State University—and they made him the person responsible to Dr. Clark for a lot of things. Public information was one. The library was another—scientific publications, biomedical communications—and so I reported to Glen not to Dr. Clark. And Glen was another great mentor to me. He was probably twenty years older than I at the time and was very encouraging to me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What did you learn from him?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Glen—I learned a couple of things from him. He was a very kind person and a gracious person, and I learned to treat people with respect from Glen. And also, he was great about just letting me do my thing. He was happy as long as I was telling him what was going on, and he and I never exchanged a harsh word. I guess he was probably here four or five years—three or four years—something like that—that I worked for Glen. He was very much a hands-off kind of boss.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Is that a strategy that you found you adopted later on?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Not particularly. I think Glen—sometimes it was to his detriment that people did not appreciate all that he did, and I was much more in my career. In fact, I learned—I did learn from Glen some things not to do. I was much more hands-on during my career.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now tell me about how your particular—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I know I’m going to hate this when I read it—if I can. (laughs) Go ahead.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, it is important to keep in mind that it’s a conversation, and it doesn’t read like a finished narrative.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes, I know. Okay. Go ahead.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s its point. (laughs) We’ve just had some discussions about what transcripts look like and how to edit them and it’s a light edit. (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I understand completely, and I’m going to be very cooperative. Go ahead.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I wanted to ask you how your role expanded when you were promoted, essentially.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I will tell you this. Glen—it was 1981, so I worked for Glen from 1975 to 1981, so that’s like six years. In 1981, Dr. [Charles A.] LeMaistre [Oral History Interview] had arrived, and he had had a couple of years on the ground—three years on the ground—and he made an organizational change. He arranged it so that I would report directly to him; and it was an awkward time, a difficult time; and it was a surprise to me when Dr. LeMaistre proposed this. And he did it for two of us. There was another person he did it for that was part of his staff. Because I think that Dr. LeMaistre did not appreciate what Glen did, and so he just eliminated the middleman, and it was in September of 1981 that I had to change. I had two titles. One was assistant to the president, which I kept for several years, as well as director of Public Information and Education. And I think—I look back on this, and Dr. LeMaistre was asked to testify before a US Senate investigational committee on—and I don’t know if you’re familiar with this or not but—about the deaths of several patients on a clinical trial here. And he was summoned to Washington—well, he was not subpoenaed, but he was asked to come. Somebody else had started working on his testimony, and it wasn’t going well at all. So we were in his office on a Saturday, and I volunteered to give it a shot and see what I could do. I went home and I spent all afternoon and evening using an IBM Selectric typewriter we had at home to draft his testimony. We got together again on Sunday. I’m sure it was the group of us. There were several of us in this group—Jim Bowen and others like that. And I remember distinctly Dr. LeMaistre reading it, and he said, “Now we’re getting someplace.” And I felt like this was like a seminal moment in the relationship that he and I had because I kind of came to—I bailed him out at the last minute. It was hard. It was a very challenging sort of a thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now let me ask you. I know people don’t like to brag on themselves, and I’m not asking for that. I mean what I’m really asking is for kind of a little bit of reflection about what you brought to that situation. You know—like what is it about your writing or the way you manage information or the way that you think about a leader standing in front of a group and delivering words that you have to provide? What is it that you can do that made it different than what this other person was attempting?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, that’s a—I’ve thought about that kind of thing a lot, and everybody brings a skill to their job. And as my job changed and I became a manager of hundreds of people and doing all sorts of things, what I realized is that I have a way of putting—committing issues to paper, and I am really a very good writer—a very strong writer—at least about MD Anderson and cancer. And that was a skill that I brought to the table, and I’ve used it. I used it with Dr. [John] Mendelsohn. I used it with Dr. [Ronald] DePinho. Many times I had people say, “This is great, Steve,” or this is—this really—now we’re doing it. And it was just something I was able to do. I also think that I’m a very good editor of other people’s writing—that I can edit writing without destroying it, as some editors do. They start all over. And I got a lot of feedback from my people over the years like, “You’re really good at this, Steve. You make things better without being too intrusive.”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). And I think that’s key—how to intervene without destroying the voice or the intention of the person who’s actually using the words. CLIP A: Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents C: Portraits C: The Professional at Work A: Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose, Commitment to Work C: Professional Practice B: MD Anderson History A Writer for Charles LeMaistre

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Now I will tell you this. During my time with Dr. LeMaistre—and the other thing about him is I understood his voice, and I could capture it, and I just—I could almost—I could like hear him saying the words from the podium, but it was exhausting. I had a division to run, which kept getting bigger, and I did speech writing for Dr. LeMaistre for his entire career here. And when he left, we boxed up about 700 speech files. Now he didn’t use every single word that I wrote, but I bet he used half of it. And it became exhausting for me. When he was the president of the—the national president of the American Cancer Society, he traveled all over the country giving speeches and it—granted, they were often the same thing (chuckles) done a little bit differently, but I worked with him on every one of those. He didn’t need a prepared text, but he liked one in front of him to make his own notes on. And he’d go off on all kinds of tangents, but I remember many times driving to his house at eight o’clock the night before a speech and saying, “Here’s the speech for tomorrow morning. I just couldn’t get it done in time.” And he and I just had a—we just had a good relationship. We really did. He was so great to me and my family. When Mendelsohn came here, that was—it was an awkward time, and I had been offered a job somewhere else, which I was seriously—the Rice job—I was seriously considering.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And what was the job at Rice that you were offered?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It was associate vice president for Public Affairs but much more narrow than what I had here. And I was seriously thinking about taking it, and Mendelsohn and I did a deal. He agreed that I would not do speech writing for him, and so I only did some ceremonial occasions like Board of Visitors or something like that. I did that from time to time, I enjoyed doing it, and I could really bat it out. But others came along. There were several in our office—DeDe DeStefano and others—who did a wonderful job of writing speeches for Mendelsohn. He was his own man about speeches, but for the ceremonial occasions he liked to have the right names to read and all of that. But I think—when I look back on it, I think that that ability to put it down on paper and to do it quickly and do it pretty well—I think that was the thing that was the little contribution I could make here that maybe nobody else could do quite the same. However, they’re getting along fine without me right now, I assure you. (laughs)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, but it sounds like the relationship that you had with Dr. LeMaistre—that was serendipity in itself. I mean here’s a person—the communications person coming together with a person who needs the words and it could have been another person in your position that Dr. LeMaistre didn’t get along with quite as well or didn’t—didn’t see or hear him speaking the words from the podium in his head. CLIP C: Portraits C: The Professional at Work C: Leadership C: Mentoring Lessons in Leadership from Charles LeMaistre

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

He and I—Dr. LeMaistre and I—I worked/reported directly to him for fifteen years. To the best of my knowledge, we never once exchanged a harsh word, and he was such a gentleman. I learned so much from him about how you treat other people. I knew his faults as well as his strengths, but he was a great person. What he did was—if you worked for him—he was so encouraging that it was like, my God, this guy is really counting on me. I can’t let him down. And there were many—he did so many things where he would encourage me when things were bad or we had a—I can think of many examples—probably too many for you—but we had Governor Bill Clements come here one time to make an official visit, and on a tour he shouted at me. His press secretary told me to interrupt him at a certain time to take questions from the media that were assembled, and new Governor Clements said, “Hell, no! I’m not going to answer any God damned questions! Get out of my way, you fool.” Right in front of all these people. That night at home, Dr. LeMaistre called me at home. “You know, Steve, it’s my job to get along with the governor. It’s your job to get along with the media, and don’t you worry about this at all.” And that was the kind of thing he did a lot for the people who worked for him. I was at a luncheon one time sitting at a table, and he was sitting up at the head table at the podium getting ready to give a talk. Before the talk he got up—when lunch was over, he got up from the podium and walked around the room and came all the way around to where I was seated at the back and bent down and asked me some question—talked about something—got up and left. And the guy sitting next to me said, “You know, my boss would never do that with me. He would never get up and leave the podium to come talk to some lowly staff person.” But I have many memories like that, and I would also say that Mrs. LeMaistre—the first Mrs. LeMaistre—treated my wife and son incredibly nicely during the whole time—that fifteen years. And I was just blessed to have that kind of relationship. It was really pretty amazing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Very fortunate to have that kind of relationship.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And to provide a real palpable service for him, too—a tangible service.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And I was—you know when—it was time for him to retire when he did. He was worn out, and Mendelsohn was totally different. And then I was dealing with someone who was closer to my age. He’s ten years older than I am, and I wondered how it would go. He and I got along great, too. He and I exchanged words sometimes but he did—he was just what MD Anderson needed when he arrived here and he really—at that point in my career, I was probably about fifty years old—forty-nine, fifty. He so encouraged me to stretch and to broaden my horizons on behalf of MD Anderson. He promoted me to vice president. He did very well by me financially, and I really grew to admire him tremendously as well. That’s thirty years of working for someone who you respected and admired and who had some respect for you as well. And most of us just can’t claim that these days.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

No. No, it’s very rare. That’s very rare. And did you—what was the impact that that kind of environment had on you?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, it made me work real hard, especially during the LeMaistre years. I really burned the midnight oil. We had a much smaller staff, and there was more to be done. And one of the things Mendelsohn did was to greatly increase my resources, which gave me more opportunity to manage and to think about things than to just be in a constant dither all the time. But it—what was the effect it had on me? Well, they say that your boss is the single most important factor in job satisfaction. So I had thirty years of great bosses. We had our—there were moments, but they were two great leaders and great to work for so I had—in terms of the single most important job satisfaction factor, I had it better than ninety-nine percent of the population ever does—work force ever does.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s pretty amazing.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I can see how you say how luck and serendipity and all that stuff came together for you.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Tacey, I am the luckiest person. Really. Sometimes I say they wouldn’t hire me at MD Anderson these days. (laughter)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’m really struck with—I can’t say I would agree with that, but it’s definitely a different place now than it was when you arrived.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah, right. Oh, yes. Definitely.

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Chapter 02: Public Affairs: Working Closely with MD Anderson Presidents

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