Best boss

Leading Houston healthcare executive named one of America's top CEOs

Dr. Peter Pisters, president of MD Anderson, ranks high on the list of top CEOs. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson

Houston-based MD Anderson regularly garners praise for its breakthrough cancer treatments. Now, its leader is garnering attention as one of the country's top CEOs.

Dr. Peter Pisters, who's been president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston since 2017, is among the honorees in Glassdoor's annual Employees' Choice Awards, recognizing the top 100 CEOs of 2019. Pisters ranks 47th on the list, with an impressive 94 percent approval rating from his employees. He appears in the category for large employers.

In a letter sent to faculty and staff after he was named to the position, Pisters wrote that he looked forward to collaborating with his new MD Anderson colleagues on the hospital's "profound purpose" of wiping out cancer.

"My promise to you is we will do so with a strong moral compass and principles of values-based servant leadership," Pisters wrote. "The honor of serving as your president is one that I both respect and am humbled by, and I will spare no effort in working with you to build upon and extend MD Anderson's unparalleled history of success."

Sitting atop the Glassdoor list of CEOs at large employers is Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare. Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B, is in second place, followed by In-N-Out Burger's Lynsi Snyder, T-Mobile's John Legere, and Adobe's Shantanu Narayen.

"Under [Butt's] leadership, the desire to constantly innovate has led to new store concepts, the creation of one of the most successful private label programs in the country, and the commitment to build out state-of-the-art digital products and services to complement H-E-B's world-class stores," the company says in a release about the Glassdoor recognition.

The remaining Texans on the Glassdoor list are all from the Dallas area: Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines; Peter Strebel, president of Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts; and Steve Barick, chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, all in the category for large employers.

Kelly, who has worked at Southwest for more than 30 years, is the highest ranked CEO in Dallas, landing at No. 35 with an approval rating of 95 percent.

At No. 58 is Strebel, who garnered an approval rating of 94 percent. He's a longtime employee of Omni; in 2018, he was promoted to president.

Barick, the longtime chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, claims the 97th spot with an approval rating of 90 percent.

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This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The Rice Management Company has broken ground on the renovation of the historic Midtown Sears building, which will become The Ion. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

The Ion — a to-be entrepreneurial hub for startups, universities, tech companies, and more — is, in a way, the lemonade created from the lemons dealt to the city by a snub from Amazon.

In 2018, Amazon narrowed its options for a second headquarters to 20 cities, and Houston didn't make the shortlist.

"That disappointment lead to a sense of urgency, commitment, and imagination and out of that has come something better than we ever could have imagined," David Leebron, president of Rice University, says to a crowd gathered for The Ion's groundbreaking on July 19.

However disappointing the snub from Amazon was, it was a wake-up call for so many of the Houston innovation ecosystem players. The Ion, which is being constructed within the bones of the historic Midtown Sears building, is a part of a new era for the city.

"Houston's on a new course to a new destination," says Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Here are some other overheard quotes from the groundbreaking ceremony. The 270,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in 18 months.


The historic Sears building in Midtown will transform into The Ion, a Rice University-backed hub for innovation. Courtesy of Rice University


The Sears opened in 1939. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

“We have the capacity — if we work together — not only to make this a great innovation hub, but to do something that truly represents the Houston can-do, collaborative spirit.”

— David Leebron, president of Rice University. Leebron stressed the unique accomplishment the Ion has made to bring all the universities of Houston together for this project. "When we tell people the collaboration that has been brought together around this project, they are amazed," he says.

“The nation is seeing what we already know in the city of Houston. That this city has the greatest and most creative minds. We are a model for inclusion among people and cultures from everywhere. We are a city that taps the potential of every resident, dares them to dream big, and we provide the tools to make those dreams come true.”

— Mayor Sylvester Turner, who says he remembers shopping in the former Sears building as a kid, but notes how Houston's goals have changed, as has the world.

“When this store opened in 1939, it showcased a couple of innovations even back then: The first escalator in Texas, the first air conditioned department store in Houston, the first windowless department store in the country.”

— Senator Rodney Ellis, who adds the request that The Ion have windows.

“Many people ask us, ‘why not just tear down the old building and start new?’ We actually see this as a very unique opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs to be located within a historic building, while benefiting from an enhanced structure, state-of-the-art technology, and Class A tenant comforts.”

— Allison Thacker, president of the Rice Management Company. She describes the environment of being a beehive of activity.

“[As program partner for The Ion,] our mission is to build the innovation economy of Houston one entrepreneur at a time.”

— Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston. Rowe describes Station's role as a connector between startups, venture capital firms, major corporations, and more.