The Foundation's Fab Four

August 01, 2014

Waldo H. Burnside, Jerry B. Epstein, Allan B. Goldman and Steaven K. Jones, Jr. have a long history of service to the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation.


Allan Goldman (left) and Jack Michel
Trustees Allan Goldman (left) and Jack Michel joined forces to support the rebuilding campaign.
Saint John’s Health Center has been around for 72 years. Combined, Waldo H. Burnside, Jerry B. Epstein, Allan B. Goldman and Steaven K. Jones, Jr., have been a part of Saint John’s for approximately 144 years. Each has generously given more than three decades of time, expertise and financial support as a trustee of the Foundation and by serving on the board of directors of the Health Center.

“They are an important Saint John’s resource,” says Bob Klein, president and CEO of Saint John’s Health Center Foundation. “And they are some of the finest people this community has ever known.”

The very existence of today’s Health Center is due, in part, to the efforts of these four individuals, Klein notes.

“After the 1994 Northridge quake, they went to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (sponsors of the Health Center at the time) and said, ‘This hospital is important to the Santa Monica community, and we want to put our philanthropic energies to work.’”

The Health Center was severely damaged by the 6.7 quake that hit in the wee hours of January 17, 1994. The sevenstory main building had to be torn down; the entire building complex sustained damage. More than 300 patients were evacuated to other hospitals, and 1,800 employees were laid off. The Health Center didn’t reopen for nine months.

Goldman recalls a meeting three days after the quake in a building across the street. “We couldn’t even meet at the hospital because the buildings were ‘red-tagged.’ The Sisters turned to us and said, ‘Do you want to rebuild this hospital?’ We responded with a resounding, ‘Yes!’”

But before the Foundation could turn adversity into opportunity, many issues had to be ironed out. Trustees wanted to seek money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but the Sisters were concerned about accepting FEMA funding for a private, nonprofit hospital.

Several trustees traveled to Leavenworth, Kansas, to meet with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth administration. In the end, $133 million in FEMA money went toward rebuilding.

“In the midst of construction, administrators realized that the hospital should be bigger and added an extra $100 million to reconfigure building plans and add 100 more beds,” Goldman recalls.

Burnside was president of the Foundation on that fateful morning. “The earthquake changed the course of the hospital in many ways,” he says. “And it showed us what we were made of.”

Burnside’s first involvement with the Foundation was serving as a committee member for the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, which Epstein helped create in 1981. Teams were comprised of five people who each ran about five miles, with a $500 per team entry fee. Thousands of runners, corporate sponsors and spectators attended the festivities held in Griffith Park. Over 25 years, the event has raised more than $10 million. Burnside went on to head the “Our Commitment to Tomorrow” campaign, which ran from 1986 to 1992, topping its $25 million goal by $2 million.

Burnside, Sister Marie Madeleine Shonka (then president of the Health Center) and other trustees were gearing up for a new fundraiser when the earthquake hit. “So our challenge became much, much bigger,” he says.

Waldo H. Burnside

Age: 85
Born: Washington, DC
Wife: Jean, formerly of Philadelphia
Married: 64 years
Came to California: 1980
Career: Chief operating officer of major department store chain Carter Hawley Hale, now retired
Joined Foundation: 1981
Milestones: Chaired “Our Commitment to Tomorrow” campaign, committee member for the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, chair of the Foundation board when Northridge earthquake hit, served on Saint John’s Health Center board of directors

Jerry B. Epstein

Age: 90
Born: New York
Wife: Pat, formerly of Atlanta
Married: 65 years
Came to California: 1949
Career: Real estate developer, Marina Del Rey
Joined Foundation: 1975
Milestones: First chair of the post-quake rebuilding committee, helped organize the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, a founder of Chautauqua retreat, former chair of Foundation board, served on the Saint John’s Health Center board of directors

Allan B. Goldman

Age: 77
Born: New York
Wife: Ellie, formerly of Boston
Married: 51 years
Came to California: 1963
Career: Attorney and managing partner of Wyman, Bautzer, Rothman & Kuchel and Los Angeles office of Katten, Muchin & Rosenman, now retired
Joined Foundation: 1978
Milestones: Former chair and vice president of the Foundation board, serves on Providence Saint John's Health Center and Saint John’s Health Center Foundation’s executive committees, former chair and treasurer of the Health Center board of directors, chair of the quality and safety committee

Steaven K. Jones, JR.

Age: 81
Born: Mississippi
Wife: Judy, formerly of Kentucky
Married: 54 years
Came to California: 1964
Career: Real estate developer, Santa Monica
Joined Foundation: 1978
Milestones: Final chair of the post-quake rebuilding committee, served on Saint John’s Health Center board of directors, chaired building committee for Saint John’s Health Center Medical Plaza

Among the people up to the task was Epstein, whose background as a real estate developer was of great value. His family doctor had encouraged him to join the Foundation years before. “I had seen the kind of care that the nuns provided, and knew I wanted to become involved,” Epstein says.

Involved he was. Shortly after the quake, Sister Marie Madeleine asked him to chair the rebuilding committee. Epstein had help from fellow developer Jones, whom Epstein tapped to join the committee.

“There were ups and downs over the years, including the bankruptcy of a contractor,” says Jones, who eventually took over as chair of the rebuilding committee. “But Saint John’s ended up with a phenomenal new facility.”

Jones remembers his invitation to join the Foundation as coming at an opportune time. “It just so happened my real estate development business was in very good shape, so I had lots of free time to devote to Saint John’s.”

While the hospital was closed after the quake, many doctors, nurses and staff had to find work elsewhere. The vast majority returned to Saint John’s as soon as it reopened. “I think it’s like this: You never fully appreciate home until you leave it,” Epstein says. “There’s something special about Saint John’s.”

Epstein has been a patient at Saint John’s. “A hospital is not where you want to be, but if you need to be, nothing comes close to the care you get at Saint John’s. It’s a community hospital in the best sense of the word.”

In the late 1970s, Epstein was among the founders of Chautauqua, a yearly Foundation trustee weekend retreat that later came to include physicians.

“We spend 2½ days immersed in education, camaraderie and fun. We have seminars in health care trends and the latest medical breakthroughs. When you break bread with someone, you really get to know them,” Epstein says, adding that the camaraderie among trustees is what allows the Foundation to raise enough money to attract the best doctors and have the best equipment. “We want to keep Saint John’s on the cutting edge.”

Jones fondly recalls the Epicurean Society, comprised of Foundation trustees and Health Center doctors. He cites the group as another example of how social mingling strengthened everyone’s support for the hospital.

Goldman agrees, adding: “It’s the people who make Saint John’s the special place it is. It’s the compassionate people and the compassionate care they give. You can’t find a better medical staff anywhere. People care about the patients, and they care about each other. It’s always been a pleasure to be a part of the Saint John's family.”

The hospital is supported by a broad range of people who give of themselves in various ways, Burnside explains. “Some people give time, some people give money, and some people give both.”

Goldman says the groundwork for the success that he, Burnside, Epstein and Jones have had with the Foundation was laid by contemporaries such as Dr. Robert Amonic, Robert Campion, Irene Dunne, Howard Edgerton, Mary Flaherty, Jim Hesburgh, Dr. William Hummer, Marion Jorgensen, Glen McDaniel, Ruben Mettler, Jack Michel, Donna Tuttle, Sister Marie Madeleine Shonka and all of the Sisters who served in administrative roles.

That success can be attributed to the fact that many Foundation trustees become lifetime members. “You get involved initially, find your way, meet the other members and find out where you fit,” Burnside says.

Despite the decades that have flown by, the four men still bring something to the table. “These four are the reason the Foundation chooses not to have term limits,” Klein says. “We wouldn’t want to lose any of them, not even for a year.”

And Klein adds, “It’s common that once our trustees become involved in Saint John’s and the mission, they stay with us throughout their lives. And their wives have been involved with the hospital, particularly with the Irene Dunne Guild. When you get these types of upstanding people, you get – as Waldo likes to say – ‘twofers.’”

All four couples remain actively involved. “We like to joke that the secret to longevity is to become a Saint John’s Foundation trustee,” Klein says.