For more than a decade, the RUSH Tower has greeted patients and families in the Illinois Medical District with a unique shape and mission that has distinguished RUSH University Medical Center facilities from others. This highly adaptive, butterfly-shaped structure opened in 2012 without a formal name. But after more than two-and-a-half years of battling COVID-19, that is changing.
RUSH has officially named the facility the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Tower, in honor of the generosity of two longtime supporters and grateful patients. Joan and Paul Rubschlager are Chicago philanthropists and former owners of Rubschlager Baking Corp. In addition to support for orthopedic and cancer research, veteran and family care through the Road Home Program, and other aspects of RUSH’s mission, the pair made the lead gift to the new outpatient cancer and neuroscience care facility directly across Ashland Avenue — the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Building at RUSH.
“We are humbled by this gesture,” Joan Rubschlager — a member of the RUSH University Medical Center Board of Trustees — said of RUSH choosing to honor the couple’s legacy in this way. “In recent years, the Tower has come to symbolize not only the resilience of the RUSH team, but also our community’s commitment to taking care of one another during the most difficult of times. We are deeply honored.”
'Center of it all'
Upon its opening, the Chicago Tribune wrote that the Tower “can be described as a powerful work of architectural sculpture, the curving profile of its glistening white bed tower soaring along the Eisenhower Expressway. It could be Chicago's next great building. But any assessment must remain provisional until doctors, nurses and patients inhabit the building and determine whether it is a triumph of function as well as form.” During the first winter of the pandemic, the Chicago Tribune listed it among the city’s best in architecture for how it raised Chicago’s “sights and spirits.”
The promise of the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Tower was on full display beginning in March 2020 when the first of what would become thousands of COVID-19 patients was treated there, leveraging its capacity to handle chemical and biological hazards. RUSH is where the sickest of the sick found lifesaving treatment, accepting more transfer patients than any other hospital in Chicago.
“In March of 2020, the Edward A. Brennan Entry Pavilion was transformed into an emergency department,” said Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO of RUSH. “We made three years of changes happen in three weeks — and the Tower was at the center of it all. Now, as we look to the future, the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Tower will be at the heart of leading Chicago and the nation in health care, and it will help us accomplish our mission of health equity for all.”
Designed with input from staff, patients
From the very beginning of building design, the Tower was designed to improve patient outcomes — with countless doctors, nurses and patients providing thoughts on how to create a facility that would ensure patient safety and comfort, improve quality and also provide efficient space for staff. RUSH’s architects developed the hospital’s innovative butterfly-shaped design to accommodate those priorities.
Joan and Paul Rubschlager ran Rubschlager Baking Corp., a family business that first opened in 1913, together from 1977 until it was sold in 2014. The company was located on Chicago’s West Side from 1971 until it closed, and during those years, the Rubschlagers developed a close relationship with RUSH as patients, volunteers and donors.
Installation of new signage began Aug. 5 during a small dedication ceremony that included the Rubschlagers. The new Joan and Paul Rubschlager Building at RUSH will open in early 2023.