Chapter 01: A Texas Family in a Small Town

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Chapter 01: A Texas Family in a Small Town

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In this chapter, Dr. DuBois talks about his family background, early education and key experiences. He first sketches his family roots in France and Ireland, noting that the emigres eventually settled in South Texas in a farming and ranching community. He grew up in a family of modest means, with his father working in the oil fields while also sustaining a ranch. Dr. DuBois next talks about his involvement in the Future Farmers of America while in high school. He decided to raise livestock and eventually one of his steers won a local grand championship and was shown at a livestock fair in Houston. This was a key event in that it allowed him to apply for a scholarship that enabled him to attend college. Dr. DuBois discusses what made that period of time so critical: he talks about the skills, work ethic, and "grit" he developed through that project. He notes he was also very involved in sports during high school. Next, Dr. DuBois talks about his education in this community where there were only 80 students in the high school and few people attended college. He notes that he was a good but not spectacular student and assumed that he would go into some kind of agricultural education and teach. He talks about applying for his scholarship and some challenges using it for college.

Identifier

DuBoisR_01_20181113_C01

Publication Date

11-13-2018

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Personal Background; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Discovery and Success; Formative Experiences

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I am Tacey Ann Rosolowski, and today is the 14th of November, 2018, and I’m in the office of Dr. Raymond DuBois, at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina, and this is my hundredth interview subject, and you kindly agreed to be that person. That’s pretty exciting and I got a trip to Charleston, so how lovely is that?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

That is exciting.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

It is exciting. So I wanted to thank you.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Sure.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Because I know how valuable your time is. Just, I wanted to start out saying for the record that since 2016, Dr. DuBois has served as dean of the Medical University.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay, all right. However, from 2007 to 2012, Dr. DuBois was at MD Anderson, serving as provost and executive vice president, and I actually found out you were the first person to be called a provost. Before then, it was chief academic officer.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I was the founding provost, that was quite an honor.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s pretty cool. So today, I’ve said today is November fourteenth. The time is about five minutes after three and again, I wanted to thank you.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

You’re welcome.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

This is pretty neat.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Thanks for coming to Charleston.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, it’s actually a pleasure. I had a chance to walk around a bit today and so that was—I’ve never been before.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It’s lovely. Unfortunately, it’s a little cool today.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh. I’m from New York State, this is lovely for me, though I have to say, I heard on the news that it actually snowed a little bit in Houston yesterday.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Oh my goodness.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And I thought I missed the New York … or missed the snow in Houston, so that, that’s kind of sad.  

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well I wanted to start in the usual oral history place and ask you to tell me where you were born and when, and tell me a little bit about your family background.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Sure. I was actually born in South Texas, I’m a native from Texas. My family spent most of their time in Runge, Texas, R-u-n-g-e, which is a small town of about a thousand people, in South Texas. I was born in Sinton, Texas, which is closer to the coast, because my father worked in the oil business and he was working down there at the time, and so we were living there when my mom delivered me, in Sinton.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m sorry to interrupt you, but has your family, for a long time, lived in Texas?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah, I think for the last several generations.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow, okay.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

At least five or six generations. My family name is French and pronounced, “Doo-Bwa,” you know. [Although we pronounce it Doo-Boys.] Since I started traveling internationally, I get lectured all the time about the right pronunciation. So, the family originally migrated from France, Paris, France, to New York, and then from New York to Alabama, and then Alabama to Texas. They ended up there because of very cheap land prices that occurred back in the mid-1800s.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So was it an agricultural family, were they farmers?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, it was an assortment. I remember my grandfather was in the insurance business, but we’re mostly a ranching and farming family and small business family.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s interesting, I mean the big migration waves didn’t come from France, I mean more Eastern Europe, Germany.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah. Well this happened fairly early on, around 1811, and essentially, I mean I guess you could classify the family as a bunch of draft dodgers, because Napoleon was drafting everybody into the army or whatever forces he had, to go fight Waterloo, and so a lot of people were leaving to try to avoid getting drafted into the military under Napoleon. So that was probably a smart thing, as it turns out.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

No kidding. You don’t want your own private Waterloo. [laughter]

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Exactly.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

All right, so it ends up that your father was in the oil business.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

He worked in the oilfield as one of sort of the laborers there. During those years, they did a lot of drilling there, and there’s been a resurgence since then, you know, so that he was one of the oil rig hands that did some of the labor there. [They call them roughnecks.] Eventually, he got injured on the job and had to do other things, because it’s pretty hard work at these oilfields. They didn’t really have a lot of safety regulations or anything like that.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Very physical work.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Right.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was your father’s name?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Same name, he was senior and I’m junior.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And your mother’s name?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

My mother’s name is Rose Elaine.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Rose Elaine?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And do you have any siblings?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I have a brother and three sisters.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And your brother’s name?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Kenneth.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And your sisters?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

One is Mary Louise and the other is Linda, and then the other is Christine.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And what’s your order in—

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I’m the second. Well, I had an older brother who actually died right after childbirth.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, wow.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

And I don’t even know if he was named or not, because it happened so quickly. So I’m, I guess legally third, but the second surviving offspring. Eventually, they moved back to Runge, because that’s where my mom’s family was from. They’re more from Ireland and Scotland, so they’re—

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was her maiden name?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Mixon. M-i-x-o-n.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, I’ve never heard that name. Interesting.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

They have quite a large family in that area too, in Karnes County. It was an agricultural situation and so a lot of people were involved in farming and ranching. As I was growing up, I did a lot of odd jobs; hauling hay, plowing fields and working as a farmhand or a ranch hand. Eventually, during high school, I got heavily involved in the Future Farmers of America, and that’s an agricultural based sort of club. So I raised a lot of livestock and showed livestock in the local livestock show, and eventually showed livestock in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston. One of my steers got the grand champion of the local show, and so we took those to Houston. Obviously it didn’t get the grand champion of the Houston show, but it did quite well. So I competed for one of those Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarships. At the time, they only awarded four to the whole state, so I got one of those, which really was important and enabled me to go to college, because even though everybody in the family worked, we really were quite poor [ ], although we didn’t realize it at the time. The scholarship did two things. One, it provided financial support, but also it provided sort of outside legitimacy that you know: it’s okay, you can go to college and make a go of it.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

None of my family ever graduated from college, my parents didn’t attend college, and my father didn’t even finish high school. So it wasn’t sort of an academically engaged family and I think getting that scholarship really was a critical—looking back on it, it was really a critical time in my development.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What were the other dimensions of that time? What else was happening around that period that was so critical to your development, because I’m just thinking about all of the drive and skills that had to come together for you to have this steer to show. I mean, I mean --and people may laugh at it but—

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

No, no, that’s a good question because we lived in the community but you know, we had enough land where we could raise livestock. I had friends in school obviously, who had done this, and I thought this is really something fun, you get to go to Houston and be involved in something bigger, and so I had started thinking about this when I was in junior high. What it required was for my dad and me to build the pens, the structures, so that we could have a place to raise these steers. We had to go purchase them from different ranches in South Texas and get the best breed that would be competitive, so you had to be very selective about that and be able to judge which breeds and which offspring were going to do the best in the show. And then we had to make our own feed, and so I had to go purchase grain and hay and other components from farmers, and then take it to a feed store and then make a mix of feed that we can give them, that we thought would be the best to get them in shape and gain the right amount of weight to be competitive in the show.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So how did you do the kind of research, if you will, to figure all those details out?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

A lot of that came through the vocational agriculture classes that I took and we got a lot of support from there. There are Ag Science books and other things that we used to come up with the formula for the feed and what the weight gain should be. I had to give them vaccinations and treatments for parasites and all kinds of things, so you learned a lot about what it takes to raise a healthy animal. The other lesson, I think that was important, you have to be around to feed these animals on a regular basis, because even though you’re off doing other things, they’re going to need to get fed on a regular schedule, so you know, there was a lot of discipline that was involved. There’s this term now that everybody uses, called grit. You know you have to be gritty? I think in retrospect, I really had to put a lot of perseverance and emphasis on it. The other thing I was involved in, in high school, was almost every sport that the school offered. I played on the football team and the basketball team, tennis and track and you know, all of those things took time for practice and getting ready for the games. I was on a fairly tight schedule to get all of that done, and then be able to keep those animals going.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well I’m also thinking you are just not a loner. This is not a story of a guy who’s an introvert.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, you know I am kind of quiet, but I know that it takes a team to get things done. There were times my dad or my mom, they had to feed the animals because I just wasn’t there, and so that had to be well planned. Definitely, it takes a team to make it work.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, for sure. It’s an interesting story, when you were talking about all of the people and things you have to get in contact with in order to get the information to accomplish this goal, I mean that’s early teamwork for sure, really, and the sports too obviously. Now academically, what was going on? What was your school like in terms of academics?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It was a small high school. Actually, I got off to a rough start with school. When I first started, you know one thing about our family was we hadn’t really been to kindergarten, I hadn’t really done any sleepovers with anybody, and so one day they said, “You’ve got to go to school,” and that was kind of a shock because nobody had really prepared me for that separation. The school was literally within a [block] of our home. It was close-by, and I remember very clearly, going to the first grade and sitting there and getting really anxious and nervous, and then just getting up and walking home.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, wow.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

They had a real hard time keeping me at school and it really caused a lot of consternation from my parents and aunt and the whole schoolteacher group.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was that about, the anxiety?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I just felt a lot of anxiety. I felt like I wasn’t ready for it and so this went on for six months. Finally, I remember my aunt bought me a football helmet or something and she said, “I’ll give this to you but only if you stay until the afternoon.” So, that sort of enticement worked and I stayed and then after that, sort of got into the groove.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was your aunt’s name?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Neecia, Neecia Davenport.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So she kind of know how to appeal to your sports side.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, they had tried a lot of things and it just didn’t work. You know at the time, I didn’t know what was going on, but in retrospect, definitely it was separation anxiety and being in a new environment that I just—and so for our kids, when they were growing up, we got them involved in everything you can imagine, so they were completely ready to go to school when the time came around for that.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Now in terms of once you got over the anxiety, were there—[Raymond laughs]. Well, I mean that’s a big deal, you know? I’m not laughing at it by any means.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

No it was, it was a big—I can just imagine how the family was reacting, because you know it’s against the law if your children don’t go to school, so they were—it was not a good thing. I mean they even had the constable over there and he would try to keep me corralled. His name was Albert, and I could slip him pretty easily, so it was crazy. So, I got into the groove and then I really started enjoying school and participating in all the extracurricular activities. I’m sure they still have this in Texas, but there was a University Interscholastic League that you could do poetry reading, picture memory. I was on the debate team. I really got engaged in almost all of that stuff and it really—you could develop a network and talk to people from other schools when you had the competitions, and I think it was a really good experience.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What about in terms of course content? It’s interesting that you’re talking about all of the stuff you did outside of classes.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Our course load was very standard. One thing that I was disappointed with, that they didn’t offer a foreign language and I wanted to take Spanish. They didn’t have a Spanish teacher and they couldn’t convince one to come, so you know it’s a fairly small school. I think there were only eighty students in the whole high school.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh my gosh.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

And there were only sixteen in my class, and it was the same sixteen that we had through the whole experience, and so there were probably not more than 200 in the whole school, and it went from first grade to twelfth grade.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So, this is a really small community and obviously a closely knit family. How do you think that affected you later on?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It was a stable support structure and I learned the basics. I must say that I think I ended up third or fourth in the class, but in a class of sixteen that’s not a lot to brag about, but it was higher than my other family members. I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Wallace. She was spectacular and when she had class, she would spend about ten or fifteen minutes in the beginning talking about world events and what was going on, and what did we think about it, and it really brought another perspective to a very small, rural, faraway town that opened up thinking about what was going on outside of that area. She was from the community, she had lived there all of her life, but she had traveled, and I think she really gave us a different perspective on life that in retrospect, probably affected me a lot more than I realized at the time.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Mm-hmm. There’s something beyond.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah. So you know, I did take advanced calculus and other things, but you know I didn’t do anything spectacular. I remember putting in a competition for the Science Fair, and it was something that actually my mother and I worked on. I wanted to do something in water filtration, and so we came up with a device that was able to filter dirty water and make it into clean water. I thought it was great. It didn’t do well at the contest, but still, going through that was a good exercise I think.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

[00:17:521] It sounds like your parents were really involved, I mean your mom involved with this, your dad involved with helping you raise the steers.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

They were, they were. They were definitely supportive and it was, you know I think it was a good environment to be raised in. I never really thought about it much during the time because you’re basically wherever you end up and you don’t have any control over it.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Now, did people talk about going to college?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Very few people went. I definitely got curious about it, especially as I got into junior high and high school, and I think going through that water filtration project, I got sort of somewhat interested in science. I had always been interested in Ag science, because of raising the cattle and doing all the things that I had to do. I worked part-time for a veterinarian one summer and got involved in doing large animal care, and so that perked my interest up for that.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So what did you start imagining yourself doing, you know the whole what do you want to be when you grow up thing.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It was pretty clear. I was so heavily involved in FFA and Ag, vocational agriculture, so I decided I wanted to major in Ag education and become an Ag teacher. So that was the plan and there were several schools in the state that have Ag education programs, but A&M [Texas A&M University] is one that was highly regarded. This is another story that I don’t tell much and it’s not a big deal, but we did have a high school counselor, but I think he was the person that played the guitar to sing all the Christmas songs at the Christmas gathering, and he really wasn’t that well trained in counseling. So I went to him and I said this is what I want to do, and so I need to take some tests to get into college. And he knew I was competing for this Ag scholarship that was very competitive. You had to do a district interview, a regional interview, and then a state interview, and so each one, they weeded out applicants, and we didn’t know if I was going to go it but if I did, it required me to go to a school that had an Ag Department. That was one of the stipulations, and it had to be within the state of Texas. So he advised me to take the ACT exam, which is one of the entrance exams, but for A&M, and I told him I wanted to go there, they required the SAT exam. So you know, it got closer and closer to it and they said you got the scholarship and which college do you want to go to, and I went back to the counselor and he says, “Oh, you can’t go to that college because you didn’t take the SAT exam.”

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, no.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It was too late to do anything about it, so what I did was I talked to the people at A&M, they said you can do a semester at another college and then just transfer to A&M. So, I did a semester at this—at the time it was called Southwest Texas State, but I think they’ve changed the name to Texas State College or something. I majored in Ag education. I did really well there, I got all As, and in a way it was probably not a bad transition, because it’s a much smaller campus.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Kind of more like a junior college experience to transition you.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah, yeah. It was closer to home and it enabled me to have a chance to get exposed to that collegiate environment and take classes and everything, and so I think it worked out and then I transferred right away to Texas A&M and they took me without the SAT exam.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s the kind of one door closes, another opens, sort of the counselor did you a favor by being a jerk.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I know. I thought, Oh my God, my whole dream is going to be dashed.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I can’t even imagine how upset you must have been.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I didn’t know anything, my family didn’t know anything about these exams.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Of course not.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

And I didn’t know anything about it. You know I just, I took it, I did pretty well on it, but at the time, they would only take one of them there.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow. That’s the classic kind of first generation to college story, I mean you’re just, you’re really at the mercy of people you are calling experts in how to move into this new space.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Right, right. So then I learned a lesson, that you probably should question things and make sure that you get a second opinion or something, to make sure people agree.

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Chapter 01: A Texas Family in a Small Town

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