Written by Nancy Steiner
Photographed by Shane O'Donnell
Stepping into Kate Crane’s El Segundo office, one is immediately
surrounded by a sense of calm. The sea-blue colors and beach-themed décor
exude a feeling of tranquility that aptly reflects the suite’s occupant.
However, that calmness should not be confused with lack of energy. Crane
gets things done.
An attorney specializing in estate planning, trust and probate law, Crane
first became involved with Torrance Memorial Medical Center 30 years ago,
when she was nominated by a medical center board member to join the board
of trustees. She accepted the position in 1988 and has been involved with
Torrance Memorial ever since.
Crane served as a board member for five years before accepting the role
of chair, which she held from 1993 to 1997.
A Prosperous Tenure
As chair, she led the board in making strategic decisions for the hospital
in terms of its growth and management. The health conference center and
a new emergency department were built during her tenure. The Torrance
Memorial Breast Diagnostic Center was also dedicated to the late South
Bay auto dealer Vasek Polak and his late wife, Anna Maria.
“With a great legal and business mind, she very quickly got up to
speed on the ever-changing health care industry,” says Craig Leach,
president and CEO, Torrance Memorial Medical Center. “She fostered
important relationships between various physician practices and the medical
center, that helped lay the groundwork for our community hospital to become
the robust health system it is today.”
Among the priorities was support and staffing of the burn center, a resource
not found in many hospitals. “Staffing a burn center is an expensive
proposition because it requires highly specialized physicians,”
she says. “But it is essential since we live in a community with
refineries. Torrance Memorial has long been committed to offering this
Three Decades of Support
When Crane became a board member, she also joined the Ambassadors Program,
the premier annual support program for Torrance Memorial. The program
raises funds for the burn center, Turpanjian Rehabilitation Services,
Hunt Cancer Institute and the health education program. Crane has been
an Ambassador for 30 years.
“I’m very dedicated to Torrance Memorial,” she says.
“It is a people-focused medical center, and its level of services
and attention to care and detail are outstanding. The people who run the
hospital have been there as long as I have. I have tremendous respect
for [president and CEO] Craig Leach and [sr. vice president] Sally Eberhard.
There are also many long-term employees in every department of the hospital,
as well as a cadre of wonderful volunteers.”
Crane credits Torrance Memorial for being ahead of its time when it came
to recognizing women and encouraging them to fill leadership roles. She
notes that the individuals who chaired the board immediately prior to
and following her tenure were both women.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Crane attended Boston College, spent two
years studying in Vienna and graduated from Emory University School of
Law in Atlanta. “At that time, everybody wanted to be a litigator.
L.A. Law was on television and made it look very glamorous.”
She began her career as a litigator in Charleston, South Carolina, then
took a teaching fellowship at George Washington University. She subsequently
obtained her Master of Law in taxation. Crane lived for a brief time in
Ohio before moving to California. Altogether she has taken five bar exams
and earned five bar admissions: South Carolina, Georgia, the District
of Columbia, Ohio and California.
“What I really enjoy about my work is my clients,” she says
regarding her estate planning, trust and probate practice. “I get
a lot of satisfaction from helping my clients plan for their families.”
“I do like to ‘take care’
of people in my life, in my
business and in my community.”
Along with the practice of law, Crane “practices” connecting
people for companionship. She has fixed up two client couples: One was
together for 15 years, and the other is in their 80s.
As for Crane’s own match, she met her husband, Milan Smith, when
both were partners at the same Torrance law firm. Today Smith is a judge
on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The pair have been married for
22 years and live in Manhattan Beach.
Crane has a grown daughter (who participated in Torrance Memorial’s
high school volunteer program) from a previous marriage, and Smith has
six children and 14 grandchildren, so the couple spends a lot of time
with family. They also love to travel and recently returned from a trip to Japan.
In addition to roles with Torrance Memorial, Crane has held a variety of
volunteer positions. She is chair of the John Gogian Family Foundation,
a private charitable foundation that supports community-based organizations
that enhance the quality of people’s lives in Los Angeles County.
She previously served on the boards of H.E.L.P. (Healthcare and Elder
Law Programs Corporation), the Blue Ribbon women’s support organization
of The Music Center and LA BioMed, a nonprofit research organization that
works in partnership with Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
“I have had many opportunities and been very lucky in my life. Appreciating
that good fortune, I have long focused on giving of my time and skills
to the community,” says Crane. “I do like to ‘take care’
of people in my life, in my business and in my community.”
For more information on the Ambassadors annual giving program, visit
torrancememorial.org/ambassadors or call Judith Gassner at 310-517-4704.