By Laurel Busby
Providence Saint John’s Health Center and members of the Klein family have been entwined for the vast majority of St. John’s 75 years.
JoAnn Klein was not only born at the hospital in 1947, but her first name is a mash-up of the first names of two hospital luminaries at that time—her uncle, Father Joe Spillane, then the hospital’s chaplain, and Sister Ann Raymond, the then-head sister and president of St. John’s.
Her husband, Bob Klein, who she met when they were both first graders at Corpus Christi School, has been the president and CEO of the St. John’s Health Center Foundation for the last 25 years, and their three children, Kristin, James and Patrick, plus their eight grandchildren were born at St. John’s.
In addition to the care the Kleins have received at St. John’s over the years, including orthopedic care stemming from Bob’s 11-year NFL career, Bob said he has treasured the relationships he has built through working as a trustee and president/CEO for the hospital’s foundation.
“The board I work with—they’re exceptional people,” said Klein, who became a foundation trustee in the late 1980s.“For me, it’s a pleasure to come here and work and support this healthcare ministry. . . . We’re a family really. We have a commitment to trying to make a difference and hopefully we do.”
There have been many challenges for St. John’s, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, and perhaps none was bigger than the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which caused such extensive damage that the hospital closed for a year and then reopened in a temporary way after retrofitting, Klein said.
The quake, which occurred two years into Klein’s tenure as president, could have meant the end of the health center, which had to be torn down, but the community rallied to support its return, he said.
“It was a very trying, difficult time,”said Klein, whose family moved to the Palisades in 1948 when he was one.“Hospitals are sup- posed to be there for the people,” but doctors, nurses and patients had to go elsewhere. Even after it reopened, “for the first few years afterwards, we were a lifeboat hospital.”
One positive result of the trauma was new state-of-the art facilities, which fully finished construction four years ago and were built to withstand future serious earthquakes using base isolation technology. In addition, the event showed how important the health center was to the community, its employees and patients, who rallied together to support rebuilding it.
“If we hadn’t been a great hospital, that wouldn’t have happened,” Klein noted.
Prior to his presidency of the St. John’s Foundation, Klein earned both a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from USC, where he played tight end on USC’s 1967 national championship team. After his football career ended with the L.A. Rams and San Diego Chargers, he worked in real estate development, even building houses in the Palisades, before focusing on a career at St. John’s.
The hospital and its foundation, which are working to create a significant expansion of both outpatient services and the John Wayne Cancer Institute over the next 15 years, have since become his career focus for myriad reasons. He values not only its contribution to the health of his family, but also to people throughout the community.
In addition, “The heritage and ethos and work ethic that the sisters [who founded the hospital] brought here still permeate the place,” said Klein, noting both its Catholic heritage and diverse workforce. “Not only is great medicine practiced, but the whole person is cared for.”
Many Palisadians have also demonstrated strong support for St. John’s by joining the foundation’s board. These trustees include Craig Benell (also foundation treasurer), Charles Adams, Rae Archbald, Margot Armbruster, Donnalisa Parks Barnum, Frank Baxter (former U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay), Norris Bishton Jr., Michael Burke, Marc Ezralow, Frances Flanagan, William Garland, Mark Gibello, H. Thomas Hicks, John Huarte, Steaven Jones Jr., Mary Ellen Kanoff, Jordan Kaplan, Jin Lee, Robert Lowe Sr., William Mortensen (life member), Dallas Price-Van Breda, Ernie Prudente, Justin Rawlins, William Rutledge, Carole Schwartz, Laura Siart, William Simon Jr., Rosa Sinnott, Michael Sitrick, Charles Smith, Gretchen Willison, and Brett Wyard.
In addition, Rick Caruso, whose company is developing Palisades Village, is a trustee.