Former Rush North Shore Medical Center CEO James T. Frankenbach, 1953-2020

September 21, 2020
Founders Day Frankenbach

James T. Frankenbach, who served as CEO of Rush North Shore Medical Center in Skokie twice and also held leadership positions at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (now Rush University Medical Center), passed away this summer. He was 67.

Frankenbach started at Rush in 1975 in an entry-level accounting position. He worked his way up to associate vice president of finance there before transferring to the affiliated Rush North Shore Medical Center in 1988 and becoming its CEO in 1990.

He made a point of touring the hospital’s patient care units during all work shifts. “I love to walk around the hospital. That’s how I understand what’s going on,” he said in a 1995 interview.

“There are days when I get beat up in my office,” he continued. “Then I go back up on the units and watch people helping people, and see what we do for our patients and their families, and remember why I work in health care. It only takes a few minutes to be reminded that what we do is pretty darn important.”

‘The best kind of leader’

In 1996, he returned to Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s as senior vice president for corporate and hospital affairs, and in 1996 he became chairman of the Department of Health Systems Management at Rush University.

In 2003 Frankenbach again became president and CEO of Rush North Shore Medical Center, where he remained until 2008, when it became NorthShore Skokie Hospital, part of NorthShore University HealthSystem. He led Rush’s search for a new owner of the hospital.

In recognition of his service, he was awarded the Trustee Medal, Rush’s highest honor, at Rush University’s 2009 commencement.

Soon after his retirement as CEO, Frankenbach returned to the workforce for six more years working for the City Colleges of Chicago. His colleagues remember him as a confident and compassionate leader who cared for others.

"Jim was the best kind of leader,” said Larry Goodman, MD, former CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush System. “He was highly skilled and absolutely dedicated to our mission and our values. He had an outstanding ability to relate to people and led with humility and empathy. 

“His efforts were critically important to the development of Rush North Shore, Rush University Medical Center and City Colleges. Beyond these tremendous accomplishments, Jim will be remembered by those who knew him as someone who always had time for others and cared as much about how things were done as what was done."

Loved golf and Italian food

Born May 16, 1953, to Kathleen and James Frankenbach, he grew up in Chicago and attended St. Joseph's School, St. Laurence High School, Northern Illinois University and Loyola University in Chicago for his MBA. He met his wife Nancy (née Blair) in 1981, and they married in 1983.

Frankenbach and Nancy had two children, Megan and Jimmy. He loved playing a round of golf with Jimmy and date nights out for Italian food with Nancy. A fan of the Blackhawks and driving his convertible in the summer, he will be missed by many.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to support the Health Systems Management Endowed Scholarship at Rush University Medical Center. Please send memorial gifts to Rush University Medical Center, 1201 W. Harrison St., Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60607-3319, or visit rush.convio.net/JFrankenbach.

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