He said he never intended to work in hospitals again, but in 2001, a friend from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia called him and asked for help.
The hospital had fallen into hard times, both financially and with its reputation. South Dakota native Roger Seaver seemed to be the answer to the problems. He’d previously worked as an auditor at the Lutheran Hospital Society in Los Angeles, at Glendale Memorial Hospital where he rose to the CEO position, he was CEO at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, and was at the time working in the technology sector.
“I didn’t really have any way to add value on a team of about eight or 10 people who were either coders or whatever,” he told The Signal from a seat at a small conference table in his third-floor office at the Henry Mayo Center, a building he saw go up during his time as CEO. “Here (at Henry Mayo), you’re benefiting the community, you’re benefiting the people. You get to work with some of the best people in the world.”
After 22 years of service at Henry Mayo, president and CEO Seaver, 74 years old, will be retiring on Friday. Asked what he’s most proud of, he said it’s playing a part in building community and it’s attaining and working with the caliber of staff on all levels who, over the years, agreed to work at the hospital, making Henry Mayo a facility that not only attracted even more great staff, but also attracted people to the Santa Clarita Valley who made the SCV their home.
During his tenure, Seaver oversaw the not-for-profit community hospital as it grew from 257 beds to a 357-bed facility and trauma center that features multiple care specialties.
According to Chris Luechtefeld, chairman of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital board of directors, Seaver was instrumental in the development and expansion of many hospital programs, and he brought much-needed additional services to the SCV, including the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center, the Kim and Steven Ullman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the Roberta G. Veloz Cardiovascular Center.
“He supported our continued capability as a regional trauma center, oversaw the expansion of our emergency department, the adoption of a comprehensive master plan, and the addition of a state-of-the-art patient tower, to name just a few of his accomplishments,” Luechtefeld said in a prepared statement about Seaver’s retirement. “Our current collaboration with Keck Medicine of USC around advanced cancer and specialty programs in our community is a testament to his vision.”
As a kid who grew up on a farm in South Dakota, Seaver never thought he’d get into the medical field. During the summer months, he’d haul grain for his father while listening to baseball games on his portable radio.
“I told my mom, I said, ‘You know what? I think I want to be a baseball announcer,’” he said. “What I actually said at the time was ‘a correspondent to people that follow the teams, but who writes the stories.’ I thought that was the ideal thing. Here I could go sit in a good seat, watch a game and tell the story.”
But he’d grow to understand that what was important in adulthood was being able to make a good living.
“My mother really made sure I went to college,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, what am I going to do?’ She said, ‘Look at the want ads, see where the jobs are.’ Of course, at the time it was engineers and accountants.”
Seaver said his mother always wanted to be an accountant, but she never got to do it. It made Seaver smile to say that her wish was sort of fulfilled when he essentially got into that line of work.
The young Midwest man would earn his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of South Dakota in 1971 before joining the U.S. Army as an officer. He’d go on to work as a store auditor for F.W. Woolworth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then he’d transfer to one of the retail chain’s stores in Huntington Beach.
It was in 1973 that he took the auditor job with the Lutheran Hospital Society in Los Angeles. Then he spent 19 years at Glendale Memorial Hospital, during which time he earned his master of business administration degree from Pepperdine University.
And while he felt he added no value to his friend’s dot-com company after that, the work he would go on to do at Henry Mayo with the people he’s been able to work with would be more than fulfilling, he said.
“The reality in health care is you can hardly do anything as one person,” he said. “And so, all of this celebration about me really needs to be understood. I mean, I’m proud of the people and proud of the work, but it’s so dependent on how everyone comes to work, how they develop their own skills, and how they become a significant role in promoting good health or saving lives, or all of the other aspects of a community hospital.”
Luechtefeld gave much credit to Seaver, saying, “Roger is a respected industry leader, and his experience and guidance were critical to Henry Mayo’s response during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital board is grateful for his role in our hospital’s growth and his dedication to the community we serve.”
And so, before coming to Henry Mayo, Seaver might’ve thought he’d never work in a hospital setting again. But he would go on to not only lead Henry Mayo with his “skill and steady leadership,” according to a news release on the hospital’s website, but he was also a major Henry Mayo supporter, donating annually and to every campaign undertaken by the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation.
“It’s probably going too far to say Roger can predict the future,” the foundation stated in the news release, “but the timing of the new patient tower opening, coming as it did five months before the start of the pandemic, couldn’t have been more fortunate. The extra bed capacity was critical in helping us care for our community during the pandemic.”
The foundation went on to quote business leader Warren Buffet, who once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” The foundation added, “The many seeds Roger began sowing here when he arrived 22 years ago are sprouting, and will continue to grow and thrive for many years, all to the benefit of our hospital and our community.”
Seaver said he looks forward to spending retired life with his wife, three kids and two grandchildren. Currently a Pasadena resident, he said he and his wife are planning a move to “where the taxes go.” In other words, they’ll be moving to Nevada where they expect to pay less in taxes.
On Friday evening, Henry Mayo is set to host a retirement celebration to honor Seaver for his 22 years at the hospital and for a lifetime of dedicated service. Kevin A. Klockenga has been appointed new president and CEO. Klockenga began work on March 13.