The recent deaths of two esteemed friends and supporters of Leadership Women – John Mendelsohn and Herb Kelleher – leave deep holes in our hearts – personally and professionally. The impact of these men – on our organization and, tangentially, the lives of women everywhere, cannot be overstated, nor overlooked.

Herb was our first corporate advocate, promoter, supporter beginning the fall of 1982. Upon learning of the prospect of a statewide program for women leaders in Texas, Herb immediately and enthusiastically was “on board” saying he knew “Leadership Texas would fly”! He agreed to provide start-up funding and scholarships for women who needed tuition assistance. Herb also sent a Southwest Airlines representative – Colleen Barrett – to the inaugural class. Subsequently, Colleen, Leadership Texas, 1983, became the first woman president of a major airline.

John Mendelsohn’s commitment to women’s health was one of the reasons he was named to head MD Anderson – according to Martha Smiley and Ellen Temple, two of the original board members of Leadership Women, who were among the University of Texas of Regents who selected Dr. Mendelsohn in 1996. Early-on, John Mendelsohn focused on addressing the particular diagnostic issues and specialized treatment protocols for women with cancer. Following their move to Houston, Anne Mendelsohn participated in Leadership Texas, Class of 1997.