Paul M. Bass Jr.: 1935-2010

'Great friend' worked to improve health care for all citizens of Dallas

By Connie Piloto

April 2010

Paul M. Bass Jr., who served for 13 years as chairman of the board of Southwestern Medical Foundation and spent three decades as a civic volunteer dedicated to improving health care in Dallas for all its citizens, died March 9 at the age of 74.

Mr. Bass’ leadership at the foundation and to medical institutions in North Texas was legendary. In the 1980s he served as chairman of the Board of Managers of Parkland Memorial Hospital, helping return it to greatness after a challenging period during the 1970s. After his six-year term on the Parkland board was up, he turned his attention to its sister institutions — UT Southwestern Medical Center, Zale Lipshy University Hospital, St. Paul Medical Center, Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Parkland Foundation and Southwestern Medical Foundation. He was instrumental in rescuing St. Paul (Dallas’ oldest hospital) from probable closure by assisting in the acquisition of the facility and its merger with Zale Lipshy under the UT Southwestern umbrella.

Paul M. Bass Jr.

“No community and no institution have known a greater friend than Paul Bass. His selfless devotion to this community, always conveyed with wisdom and humor, should be an inspiration to all of us,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of
UT Southwestern. “Even as he approached the end of a long and difficult illness, he spoke about his hopes for
UT Southwestern and its future. I also feel enormously privileged to be among those fortunate enough to have felt his great capacity for friendship.”

Mr. Bass’ business acumen served as a guidepost for Southwestern Medical Foundation, which he led as chairman from 1995 to 2008. When he stepped down, its assets had increased more than $500 million.

Many believe his greatest strengths, however, were his caring heart and sense of humor.

Mr. Bass’ genuine concern for others, his good-natured wit and eloquence, and his ability to embrace new ideas and reach out to those with different philosophies helped bring recognition to Dallas, UT Southwestern and its affiliates as a health care destination.

“Paul’s personal friendships resulted in major gifts to Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern,” said William T. Solomon, Mr. Bass’ successor as chairman of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “His extraordinary vision led him to begin cultivating the next generation of philanthropic leaders, who will continue following the path he charted.”

Shortly after he stepped down as chairman, UT Southwestern honored Mr. Bass by renaming the newly acquired buildings on the 24-acre Exchange Park site in Dallas the Paul M. Bass Administrative and Clinical Center.

“There is no doubt that Dallas is a better place for having had Paul Bass’ guiding hand at the helm all these years,” said Dr. Podolsky.

Mr. Bass remained involved with the foundation by serving as chairman emeritus and as a member of the Executive Committee and Investment Committee. He also was a member of the Dallas Citizens Council, served as chairman of the Finance Committee of the State Fair of Texas and on the board of Phoenix Houses of Texas. For 41 years, he was an active member of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, serving as its president from 1990 to 1991.

“For three decades, Paul Bass devoted his interest, energy and influence toward improving health care in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of Southwestern Medical Foundation and former president of UT Southwestern. “His overriding concerns were always: Is it good for our community, and is it good for the patients we serve? Because of his dedicated service, health care in Dallas is significantly better than it would have been without him.”

His talents and service were recognized by the community. Mr. Bass received the foundation’s 1994 Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award, the 1995 Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council’s Distinguished Health Service Award, the 1999 Dallas Historical Society’s Award for Excellence in Health/Sciences, the 2000 Dallas County Medical Society Heath Award, the 2002 Phoenix House Award for Public Service, the 2003 Linz Award, the 2006 Oak Cliff Lions Club Humanitarian Award, the 2007 Texas Association of Business – Distinguished Business Leader Award for the Dallas Chapter and the 2008 Senior Source’s Spirit of Generations Award.

His passion for health care began quite personally. Ten months after being appointed to the board of Parkland in 1983, he had a stroke and became a patient in the hospital. A young neurosurgeon performed a bypass, restoring his speech and mobility. Mr. Bass credited Dr. Duke Samson, now chairman of neurological surgery, and the excellent care he received at Parkland with saving his life. He became a patient once again in 2005 after suffering a heart attack. This time, Dr. John Warner, director of the Doris and Harry W. Bass Jr. Clinical Center for Heart, Lung and Vascular Disease, provided life-saving treatment.

“Paul’s experiences as a patient made him more effective as a catalyst for improvements in health care,” said Dr. Wildenthal. “He was devoted to studying the issues and making sound decisions. He could put himself in the shoes of physicians and understand their commitment to their patients.”

Mr. Bass was born April 26, 1935, in Tyler, Texas, and after service in the Air Force, graduated in 1957 from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor of Business Administration. In 2006 he received his alma mater’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He also received the SMU Cox School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award.

Mr. Bass was vice chairman of First Southwest Co., an investment-banking firm based in Dallas, and served on the board of directors of First Southwest Asset Management Inc. He also served as director and member of the Audit Committee of Comp X International.

Mr. Bass is survived by his wife, Carla; his son, Paul M. Bass III, and his wife, Laura; his daughter, Catherine Bass Hawes, and her husband, John M. Hawes III; stepchildren, John C. and Susan Rutledge, and Karen and Steave Wayman; and six grandchildren, Andrew Hawes, Betsy Hawes, Paul Bass IV, Chris Bass, Madeline Rutledge and John Rutledge.

The family has suggested that memorials may be made to The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, 400 S. Zang Blvd., PMB 77, Suite 700, Dallas, TX 75208-6642; or to the Paul Bass Fund, c/o Southwestern Medical Foundation, 2305 Cedar Springs Road, Suite 150, Dallas, TX 75201-7805. The Paul Bass Fund will support clinical cardiology in honor of Dr. John Warner and is designated for a new University Hospital.