Richard E. Wainerdi and the Texas Medical Center

Richard E. Wainerdi and the Texas Medical Center

Richard E. Wainerdi and the Texas Medical Center

Richard E. Wainerdi and the Texas Medical Center


In 2012, Richard E. Wainerdi retired as president and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Center after almost three decades at the helm. During his tenure, Wainerdi oversaw the expansion of the center into the world's largest medical complex, hosting more than fifty separate institutions. "I wasn't playing any of the instruments, but it's been a privilege being the conductor," he once said to a newspaper reporter.

William Henry Kellar traces Wainerdi's remarkable life story from a bookish childhood in the Bronx to a bold move west to study petroleum engineering at the University of Oklahoma. Wainerdi went on to earn a master's degree and a PhD from Penn State University where he immersed himself in nuclear engineering. By the late 1950s, Texas A&M University recruited Wainerdi to found the Nuclear Science Center, where he also served as professor and later associate vice president for academic affairs.

In the 1980s, Wainerdi took charge of the Texas Medical Center, embarking on a "second career" that ultimately expanded the center from thirty-one institutions to fifty-three and increased its size threefold. Wainerdi pushed for and ensured a culture of collaboration and cooperation. In doing this, he developed a new nonprofit administrative model that emphasized building consensus, providing vital support services, and connecting member institutions with resources that enabled them to focus on their unique areas of expertise. At a time when Houston was widely known as the "energy capital of the world," the city also became home to the largest medical complex in the world. Wainerdi's success was to enable each member of the Texas Medical Center to be an integral part of something bigger and something very special in the development of modern medicine.


My long-standing friendship with Dr. Richard E. “Dick” Wainerdi began in the early 1970s. Dick was then the associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University. Often he accompanied the school’s seventeenth president, Jack Kenny Williams, to private meetings where we exchanged vital information pertaining to Texas higher education. Those were troublesome times across our country, in particular for higher education. in our mutual administrative roles we shared many profound challenges. Protests against the never-ending Vietnam War became focused upon major universities, with attempts to disrupt the academic process. Our frequent meetings yielded a unique trust, created lifelong friendships, and assisted in preventing disruption at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas System’s universities.

This vital exchange of information allowed for Texas higher education and two great systems to flourish and for us to strategize and plan for the future needs of our state. An outcome of these combined communications and discernments is clear: Together Wainerdi and Williams accomplished legions for Texas A&M, including the creation of the Texas A&M Medical School.

While at Texas A&M for almost two decades, Dick Wainerdi was also a teacher, an administrator, and a researcher. For his valuable service, Dick has received many rightful honors and recognitions. of these, I am most proud that Dick was the distinguished recipient of the prestigious International Hevesy Medal Award for outstanding achievement in radioanalytical chemistry.

At the outset of what was to become twenty-eight years as president, chief executive officer, and chief operating officer of the Texas Medical Center (TMC), Dick was confronted with a set of strong, highly independent leaders of the center’s multifaceted medical institutions. Understandably, each of these institutional leaders aspired to achieve their own brand of excellence in their field of medicine.

Dick Wainerdi’s vision for the tmc led to an extraordinary . . .

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