Like the late San Francisco 49ers coach Walsh, Wilford is known for his keen ability to evaluate talent, a skill that former Memorial Hermann Chief Operating Officer Ken Wine says Wilford used deftly as he shifted employees into other departments where they performed better.
With Ditka (the Chicago Bear who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 as a player, not a coach), Wilford shares a love of fierce competition. Richard Bettis, former president and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association, says Wilfords intensity is infectious. Its not to intimidate you, Bettis says. Its almost to shame you. Hes so intensewhy am I not as intense?
And then theres Lombardi. Wilfords brother says the former Green Bay Packers coach was too rigid, too hard-nosed, for there to be any fair comparison between the two men. But while their personal styles may have been different, their work ethic and attitude toward achievement were very much the same. The quality of a mans life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor, reads the Lombardi quote in Wilfords office.
That determination helped Lombardi transform professional football in America, as it helped Wilford transform Houstons Memorial Hospital into what is now the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in the Texas Medical Center. And if that 1997 merger between Memorial and Hermann Hospital was the pinnacle of Wilfords careerhis Super Bowl, so to speakthen his journey there was just as arduous, disciplined and well-executed as a winning season.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., on June 11, 1940, Wilford grew up in Arkansas with his parents, older sister, Ann, and twin brother, Ned. The family moved to a handful of towns in the state before Dan and Ned graduated from high school in 1958 and left for the University of Mississippi, where Dan played fullback and end, while Ned played running back. Their love of football continued to grow, and both men would serve later as officials in college football, with Dan in the Missouri Valley Conference, then the Southwest Conference, and, eventually, in the NFL in the early to mid-1980s.
In 1962, the two brothers finished college as distinguished military graduates in the Armys Reserve Officers Training Corps. The genesis of their careers in healthcare began there, as both menthen second lieutenantschose the medical service corps, which introduced them to hospital management.
Dan spent two years at the U.S. Army Hospital in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., before he left for Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned a masters degree in hospital administration. By this time, he had married his high school sweetheart, Anne, and the couple had their first child, a daughter named Kelly. The program at Washington University required a year of study and a year of residency, in which graduate students rotated through all of the departments of a hospital. Wilford was eager to make his way to Tulsa, Okla., where he heard good things from his classmates about Jim Harvey, then the progressive, 36-year-old CEO of Hillcrest Medical Center. Wilford considers the late Harvey as one of his mentors.
He was a big believer in strategic planning, which was not new but not many people had sophisticated planning processes, Wilford says. He was big into management by objectives: setting goals, measuring performance. That was relatively new then, he adds. He kind of thought the hospital should be a laboratory to try new things.