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  • About RSNA
  • Part 12 A New Executive Director

  • Radiology was growing dramatically by 1970. Improved imaging techniques were being devised, additional subspecialties were being formed and new modalities were on the horizon. As a result, the number of manuscripts being submitted to Radiology for possible publication was increasing. In fact, Radiology Editor William R. Eyler, M.D., was being inundated by papers, many of which dealt with ultrasound and how it could be used to obtain images without radiation. To make the journal more user-friendly, Dr. Eyler began to print short summaries, or abstracts, before each major scientific article. He also began assigning index terms to each paper, assuming that a Radiology index would be printed in a few years. He then organized the 12 monthly issues into a four-volume per year arrangement. In addition, RSNA President John R. Hodgson, M.D., and the Executive Committee (more frequently being called a Board of Directors) authorized the computerization of circulation data.

    Increasing Responsibilities, Decreasing Meeting Space 

    The expanding field of radiology was also resulting in a greater need for continuing medical education. Consequently, some Society leaders and committee members were finding they could not contribute effectively to the educational mission of the RSNA without taking time away from their practice. At one point, Dr. Eyler, with his characteristic penchant for understatement, commented on the time and effort needed to manage [i]Radiology[/i] by noting his RSNA-related work was "a hobby, but you might say that it is a little more time consuming than boating or chess." 1 Maurice D. Frazer, M.D., the RSNA secretary since the death of Donald S. Childs, M.D., in 1960, had to give up his additional responsibilities as treasurer, which he had acquired in 1964. Canadian radiologist R. Brian Holmes, M.D., was selected as the new treasurer.

    The growth of the field was also creating more pressure to expand the RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting. But Dr. Hodgson realized he was facing an inevitable crisis. The annual meeting could not expand if its location was confined to the Palmer House in Chicago. After more than a decade with increasingly cramped facilities, RSNA leaders became convinced that something drastic had to be done. The Executive Committee members entertained many possibilities. Ultimately, they realized that if the meeting remained in Chicago, they had four options:

    • Move to the larger, but less convenient, Conrad Hilton
    • Split the scientific assembly between the Palmer House and the Conrad Hilton
    • Move to a convention center
    • Limit the scientific assembly and remain at the Palmer House (This, of course, was the least attractive option.)

    Chicago had one major convention center called McCormick Place-on-the-Lake, located along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of downtown Chicago. Yet, RSNA leaders were not sure if a medical meeting would be successful there. Physicians were used to attending medical meetings in hotels, sometimes in exotic locales. Many Society members thought a move to a convention center would irreparably harm the educational effectiveness of the RSNA Scientific Assembly.

    Enter Adele Swenson 

    Before Dr. Hodgson and the Executive Committee could adequately consider a change in meeting venue, another more immediate concern developed. Executive Director Marguerite Henry, who had joined the RSNA in 1933 on the insistence of Dr. Childs, announced she would retire. However, she agreed to stay with RSNA for two additional years so that a successor could be found and trained.

    Dr. Hodgson wasted little time looking for a new executive director. He immediately recalled the work of Adele Swenson, who had been executive director of the River Trails Girl Scout Council of southeastern Minnesota. Born and raised in North Dakota, Swenson attended college and then headed to Washington, D.C. As part of the U.S. Navy personnel department, she worked with White House staff and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She also assisted in enhancing the academic qualifications of women in government and helped develop a training program for disabled veterans. She then relocated to St. Paul to study finance and economics at the University of Minnesota. She obtained a position with the legal and financial division of a printing corporation before becoming an administrator for the Girl Scouts of America.

    When she applied for the executive director position of the River Trails Girl Scout Council, the personnel committee, supported in an advisory capacity by the personnel directors from IBM and the Mayo Clinic, recognized her outstanding abilities and recommended her immediate employment.

    Right Person, Right Time 

    Dr. Hodgson had met Swenson through his wife, who had been vice-president and president of the council. He remembered how Swenson had unified the council's leadership and solved its financial problem. So, in 1970, when she was at Dr. Hodgson's home having lunch with his wife, he asked Swenson to send a résumé to the RSNA. By that summer, RSNA Executive Committee members Herbert M. Stauffer, M.D., David S. Carroll, M.D., Robert E. Wise, M.D., Reynold F. Brown, M.D., and John W. Beeler, M.D., as well as Drs. Frazer, Holmes and Hodgson, met three candidates for the position, including Adele Swenson.

    Dr. Hodgson later noted that although he wanted the RSNA to hire Swenson, he said nothing during her interview fearing it would bias the others. To his relief, the RSNA leaders, like the Girl Scouts personnel committee years before, immediately recognized Swenson's talents and offered her the position. Dr. Hodgson believed her expertise was exactly what the Society needed. During this time of rapid growth in radiology, RSNA leaders were determined to provide an educational forum for those with an interest in the application of radiation for scientific purposes. "The Society was going to need her business judgment and expertise, the Board of Directors was going to need her organizational ability and American radiology needed a strong, healthy, educational organization to keep abreast of the extraordinary changes taking place in radiology," Dr. Hodgson later wrote.2 

    Meanwhile, as an honor to Marguerite Henry, Dr. Hodgson and the Executive Committee established an "honorary membership" category and, at the 1970 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, made her a member of the RSNA. Dr. Frazer said, "Her soft-spoken words of wisdom, given at the proper time, have indeed served many times as the conscience of this Society. Her views, when expressed, were never for personal gain, but were expressed for what she thought and believed to be in the best interests of the Society." 3 Adele Swenson became the new RSNA executive director on January 1, 1971.


    1. Campbell RG. Radiological Society of North America, Inc, 1965-1989: quarter century of rapid growth and progress. Radiology 1990; 175:1-7.
    2. Hodgson JR. Apprenticeship of Adele Swenson. [In] RSNA Remembered: Reminiscing with Adele-1985. Oak Brook, IL: RSNA, 1985: 55.
    3. Frazer MD. Mr Secretary's perspective. [In] RSNA Remembered: Reminiscing with Adele-1985. Oak Brook, IL: RSNA, 1985: 35.

    Board of Directors, 1970 Bottom row left to right: Reynold F. Brown, M.D. John R. Hodgson, M.D., President 1970 Herbert M. Stauffer, M.D. Back row left to right: Maurice D. Frazer, M.D. Brian Holmes, M.D. David S. Carroll, M.D. Robert R. Wise, M.D. John W. Beeler, M.D
    Adele Swenson Executive Director, 1971