Legail P. Chandler, vice chancellor for human resources at Washington University in St. Louis, has announced plans to retire June 30, according to Shantay Bolton, executive vice chancellor for administration and chief administrative officer.
Chandler, who has spent more than 43 years in human resources — most of it at Washington University and the Washington University Medical Campus — has grown the HR team into a universitywide office that helps support nearly 20,000 employees.
Chandler was named vice chancellor for human resources in 2015 after serving as assistant dean and executive director of human resources at the School of Medicine for 11 years. She is responsible for all aspects of human resources for the university, including development and implementation of policies and procedures and evaluation and standardization of benefits and compensation. She also oversees the university’s child care services, which include the Washington University Family Learning Center and the Nursery School.
“Legail’s contributions to making Washington University such a remarkable, inclusive place to work are immense, and her commitment to the university’s most important asset — our employees — has been extraordinary,” Bolton said. “I am convinced that nothing is more important to the success of an organization than hiring and developing its people; she undoubtedly understood the art of recruitment and the science of betting on great talent.
“Under her leadership, the HR team has grown in size, distinctiveness of expertise and has developed strong, nimble programs to evolve with the changing needs of our diverse community members.”
During Chandler’s tenure, the HR team has focused on supporting employee well-being, fostering a culture of wellness and support; implementing programs such as screenings and background checks to ensure the safety of the community; and expanding leaves to include stronger parental and family leave, short-term disability and an overall time-off policy that emphasizes proactive health care, family care and self-care.
HR also has strengthened communications and employee recognition; enhanced family care services; added an executive search function; created a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace; and built more support for leadership development.
“Legail has been an incredible asset to the university from her early days implementing a new human resources management system at the medical school to, most recently, helping our employees maintain a healthy work-life balance during a global pandemic,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said.
“She has always shown a deep commitment to being fair and humane when dealing with employee or organizational issues,” he said. “Legail and her team stepped up during the early days of the pandemic — and have continued throughout — to provide real-time support and services to the WashU community. She made sure that the health and well-being of our employees and their families was front and center in all of our COVID-19 planning,” Martin said.
Forbes recently ranked the university the top employer in Missouri on its 2021 list of “America’s Best Employers.” For this year’s rankings, Forbes said employers were analyzed based on their ability to remain flexible and keep employees safe during the pandemic.
Chandler said she is proud of how the human resources team helped university leaders carry out difficult work during that unprecedented time while also providing a host of programs and resources to help employees cope and thrive. By working closely with numerous WashU partners, including in psychiatry, public health, occupational health, marketing and communications and emergency management, Chandler said that her and her team’s main concern was to take care of people.
“I’ve always believed in the importance of being able to connect with people, being accessible and being human,” Chandler said. “When you carry yourself with humanity, listen and work to build trust, it transforms the way people feel about you as a leader, about their role and about the place they work.”
Martin also noted Chandler’s role as an executive sponsor for the implementation of Workday, the new HR and financial administrative system. He said Chandler’s ongoing leadership and extensive experience in human resources information systems throughout the multiyear initiative helped ensure Workday’s successful launch July 1.
‘Rewarding’ years at WashU
An alumna of the university, Chandler joined the School of Medicine staff in 1999 as a human resources information systems consultant, where she helped implement PeopleSoft HR and payroll applications and analyze universitywide appointment and payroll business practices.
In 2004, she was named director of human resources for the medical school, where, among other responsibilities, she developed and managed the HR function for more than 9,000 faculty and non-faculty employees and established policies for compensation, recruitment, employee relations and leadership development.
In addition to building resources for the schoolwide diversity and inclusion effort and hiring two experienced professionals to lead it, Chandler’s other accomplishments included developing in-house consultation services for organizational development, applied leadership and employee relations and launching Smart Choices, a career development program to help staff members set and assess career goals.
In collaboration with clinical leaders, she also launched the medical school wellness initiative that provides resources for smoking cessation, the walking program and numerous health and wellness events.
Most recently, in 2018, Chandler established at the School of Medicine the first federally supported medical assistant apprenticeship program at a Missouri university. The university was just named the “Apprentice Missouri 2021 Provider of the Year” for the apprenticeship, which covers tuition for those accepted into the program.
“Legail has been an invaluable ally who has helped shape the School of Medicine’s high-performing culture,” said Richard Stanton, vice chancellor for medical finance and administration at the School of Medicine. “She has been our HR Don Quixote who has never shirked stepping in and stepping up as we sometimes tilted at windmills — and she often managed to bring them down, frequently by holding us to our professed institutional principles.
“Her career has been characterized by her deep respect for managers and the management process; her high expectations for our managers; and her profound appreciation of the value of each individual person and for employees as a group,” Stanton said. “In my 50 years of executive experience at the highest levels of government and academic medicine, I have never had a better partner. While I wish her happy trails, she will be sorely missed.”
Prior to joining the medical school HR staff, she held several positions, beginning in 1983, at the Washington University Medical Campus.
A Kentucky native, she began her human resources management career in 1977 after earning a bachelor’s degree in business and administration from Western Kentucky University. She also earned a master’s degree in information management from Washington University’s McKelvey School of Engineering in 1998.
“It has been a privilege to serve this institution and learn from other people every day,” said Chandler, who is immediate past chair of the American Research Universities Human Resources Institute. “I have enjoyed the variety of work in this interdisciplinary institution — seeing what different units do, encountering challenges that seemed practically unsolvable, but eventually being able to solve them. My years at Washington University have been very rewarding.
“I am grateful for my time here and I have every confidence in the outstanding leadership team we have at WashU and within HR,” Chandler continued. “Chancellor Martin and Dr. Bolton have a vision that I know will continue to transform WashU and carry the university forward.”
In retirement, Chandler plans to spend more time fly fishing with her husband, Larry, traveling with her travel group and visiting her home state of Kentucky.
An executive search firm will perform a national search to identify candidates to succeed Chandler. The firm, Parker Executive Search, will work in partnership with a university search committee that is being formed. Campus listening sessions with university members will be held in December.