The Baylor Health Care System folks were expecting maybe 200 for a big announcement involving the fabulous new Cancer Inpatient facility on Worth Street. But from the scene, it appeared that number might have been double. After all, if this fabulous, multimillion-dollar center weren’t incredible enough, the headliner of the day was energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens and the family of the late Canadian oilman/sportsman/businessman Harley Hotchkiss.
But before proceeding with the festivities, it’s important to know a little background on Boone and the Hotchkiss clan. Boone met Harley in 1957, when he went to Calgary searching for cheaper oil. Not only did Boone open an office in Calgary two years later, but he and Harley became great friends, hunting around the world together and making a lot of money together. As the 84-year-young Boone recalled of his old friend, they talked almost every Sunday. When Harley was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he ended up coming to Baylor in Dallas because the right cancer treatment wasn’t available in Canada. Harley and his devoted wife Becky, who had been an RN, made the trip back and forth every four to six weeks.
Speaking of Becky, she was just 16 and Harley was 22 when they first met. Boone recalled how, back then, a fellow would get a father’s permission just to go out with his daughter. Harley arrived at Becky’s house to ask her dad’s permission. Instead, the two men ended up drinking a pot of coffee for two hours with her father inviting Harley back anytime.
But once they decided to marry, Becky said Harley had to do two things:
- Stop smoking
- Get a college degree
He graduated from Michigan State University, they had five children and were married nearly 60 years until his death on June 22, 2011.
It was Boone’s friendship with Harley that was commemorated today with the announcement of Boone’s pledging $10 million in support of Baylor initiatives and the naming of its new cancer hospital the “Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital.”
But before the lobby filled with guests and Baylor staff members, Boone and the Hotchkiss family gathered privately behind screens to see the unveiling of three large plaques “commemorating Pickens’ lifelong friendship with Hotchkiss.”
It was an extremely touching moment for the entire group. In the plaque, Boone called Harley “my best friend.” But leave it to Boone to come up with a question: “Do you have a date on the picture [of Harley and Boone]?” From the back of the group, a voice was heard to say, “About 2005.” Boone asked back, “Why do you think that?” The voice [belonging to Boone's aide-de-camp Jay Rosser], without hesitation, replied, “Because I took it.”
Then they were off on a tour of the 175,000-square-foot center that is the “first dedicated cancer hospital in North Texas.” The new hospital features all private rooms, many with ICU capabilities. But the facility was built to provide healing for not just the patient but their families as well —
- Surroundings are designed to create an environment of healing, calming and spirituality for patients and their families on the cancer journey.
- Accommodations allow families and caregivers to stay on-site in comfort, including larger patient rooms, shower facilities and laundry facilities.
- An Oncology Evaluation & Treatment Center enables established cancer patients to access urgent care in an environment specially-suited to these patients’ complex needs.
- Dedicated facilities include a Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit, Apheresis Center, Oncology Pharmacy, Infusion Center and Processing Lab for stem cells and bone marrow products.
Just across the street is the 467,000-square-foot Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center for outpatients. The entire complex dedicated to cancer care represents a “$350 million investment to anchor high-caliber cancer care in North Texas — all close to home where patients can be supported by their families and loved ones.”
Baylor Health Care System President/CEO Joel Allison said, “Having T. Boone Pickens’ name on the cancer hospital serves as a daily reminder to our patients, their families and Baylor caregivers that we stand for innovation and leadership in this special place of hope and healing. The men and women of Baylor Health Care System are most grateful for this very generous investment in serving the patient, which is at the center of everything we do.”
Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Rowland “Robin” Robinson added, ““T. Boone Pickens’ gift reinforces that Baylor is a world-class health care system. It provides a valuable platform for us to talk about Baylor’s defining culture and to show the positive impact we have in our communities. We are excited and honored to have a relationship with a leader known for giving to institutions aligned with a focus on caring for the whole patient. We are proud of his endorsement.”
Then it was time for the official ceremony to take place with Robin, Joel, Baylor University Medical Center of Dallas/Baylor Health Care System VP President John McWhorter III and Baylor Health Care System Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Turner at the helm.
After the cloth was pulled, officially revealing the name of the center, they closed with the Baylor tradition of ringing the bell. Ah, but before that could take place, small black pouches were handed out to guests with small bells inside. As Boone pulled the ringer of the big bell, surprising Becky and the others on stage at its sound, little bells were heard chiming throughout the SRO lobby.
Harley’s son Jeff said the day had been overwhelming for the entire family. After spending several days at Boone’s ranch in the Panhandle, where they played golf, took a helicopter tour of the place and “ate a lot,” they attended the Cowboys game Sunday in Boone’s suite. According to Jeff, “We had the full-meal deal.” Jeff went on to say that Boone reminded him of his dad and added, “I’m proud of Mr. Pickens.”
Ironically, this same morning when North Texas was officially taking a major step in helping those with cancer, the area lost Fred Meyer (sub. req.) to the disease.