Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Vanguard founder Bogle and surgeons gather for a heart-transplant reunion

Vanguard founder and former CEO John C. Bogle loves his heart -- his second heart. He reunited with his cardiac doctors Tuesday, 21 years to the day after his successful transplant.

Bogle, 87, shook hands at Jefferson Hospital with his surgeons Rohinton Morris and Louis Samuels.

On Feb. 21, 1996, they transferred the donated heart of a 30-year-old from an ice cooler into Bogle, who was then 66 and considered past the age for a healthy heart transplant. To everyone's shock, Bogle thrived.

"I'm busier than ever," he told an audience at Jefferson Hospital's Alumni Hall at 10th and Locust Streets. "Given this second chance at life, I've been able to accept the challenge Kipling laid down for those who 'face both triumph and disaster. ... To treat those two impostors just the same.'

"I get a lot of awards now for durability," he joked.

Bogle added that he never would have lived to see Vanguard reach $4 trillion in assets from its founding in 1974.

"It was never my intent to build a colossus. I'm a small-company kind of guy," he said. "Turns out, when you do what's right for investors, money pours in."

In 2016, he noted, Vanguard took in $300 billion, more than any other company on Wall Street.

Morris and Samuels now work in Jefferson's recently revived heart-transplant program. In January, following a voluntary suspension of the program, Jefferson again began performing transplants after hiring Howard Todd Massey and Andrew Boyle as the unit's lead cardiologists.

Bogle received his heart transplant at Hahnemann University Hospital, where  Morris and Samuels were cardiac doctors. They have since joined Jefferson, hired by its president and CEO, Stephen Klasko.

"I had my first heart attack at 31," Bogle recalled. At 35, he was fired from the Wellington Fund and founded Vanguard, and "my heart continued to get worse."

During one cardiac arrest, he dropped in a heap at Reading Terminal after a board meeting at the former PSFS bank.

"I toppled over and my hat fell off," he told the audience Tuesday. "I tried to tell the security guard standing over me that I had to get the 2:30 train to Paoli, but he told me to lie still and we waited for the rescue squad to show up."

Bogle bet the ambulance drivers they couldn't make it to the hospital in under 28 minutes. They made it in 21.

When he was 38, Bogle was diagnosed with ARVD (arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia), which caused his heart to beat erratically. After a total of six heart attacks, his doctors recommended the transplant.

Bogle, by then age 66, waited in the hospital for 128 days on an IV. There's no special treatment once you're on the donor list, he said.

"It's as democratic as a traffic jam. Once you get in line for a heart, there's no bias. And when I met Dr. Morris, I said: 'You're my man.' At that age, I was pushing the limit of transplant age. Now, I'm trying to be a super-ager. I'm pushing 88, and hope to push to 89," Bogle said.

At Tuesday's event, his doctors made much of the similarities between Bogle's founding of Vanguard and his success with his second heart.

"Everyone knows that Jack's index funds have beaten the average mutual fund, but he's also beaten the odds when it comes to his heart," Morris said. Bogle remains active, riding his bike and hiking in the Adirondacks, where he vacations in the summer.

The Vanguard founder drew a comparison between medicine and finance — that "stewardship is a moral enterprise between the doctor and patient, much like a fiduciary duty between investor and money manager."

The health-care industry has changed radically since Bogle's transplant — particularly with the passage, and now possible repeal, of the Affordable Care Act.

"In the abstract, health care is a right," Bogle said. He noted that his insurance bill after his transplant topped $780,000 but that with excellent health-care coverage through Vanguard, his portion was $3.46.

"I screamed at Eve, my wife, 'Quick, get my checkbook so I can pay this before they change their minds!' " he said with a laugh.

On a more serious note, he added: "The inequality of today's incomes isn't healthy. We don't want the country to have riots."

Bogle ended the reunion by saying he "wouldn't have lived to see my dreams realized, and that's been gratifying, what the doctors have done for me."