Nearly Five Decades of Dedication to RUSH

Passion for nursing education leads one RUSH alumna and retired faculty member to leave a lasting legacy.
Karen Van Dyke Lamb

As a high school student in the 1960s, Karen Van Dyke Lamb, DNP, didn’t know the impact a simple brochure would have on her life. The brochure, which she picked up at a local trade fair, piqued her interest in volunteering at RUSH University Medical Center, formerly known as Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital. After about two years of volunteering, Van Dyke Lamb knew she wanted to pursue nursing as a career.

“I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing was one of my top choices. I knew people who had gone to the school. It was a good fit.”

Van Dyke Lamb believed that the leadership at RUSH, including James A. Campbell, MD, the University’s first president, and Edith Payne, director of the School of Nursing, had foresight and that their educational model was ahead of its time.

Unlike most other nursing programs where students were expected to learn on the job, Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing — now known as RUSH University College of Nursing, which is one of four colleges associated with RUSH University Medical Center — was modeled after baccalaureate programs. Later, in 1965, this approach aligned with a statement issued by the American Nurses Association that declared nursing education should be taught at universities.

A Fulfilling Career at RUSH

Van Dyke Lamb graduated from the School of Nursing in 1967 and spent a few years traveling and working throughout the U.S. and Mexico before returning to Chicago and Presbyterian-St. Luke’s in 1975. Luther Christman, PhD, RN, FAAN, former dean of Rush University College of Nursing, inspired Van Dyke Lamb to ultimately want more for her career, leading her to spend 47 years at RUSH.

“He really was a visionary,” she said. “Dr. Christman inspired me to get a bachelor’s degree because I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree at RUSH and be there when professionalism in nursing, nursing education and research were moving forward. He put RUSH nursing on the map with his innovative Rush Model for Nursing. I’ll be forever grateful to him and all the people I worked with at that time.”

Realizing how much she enjoyed working with older people, Van Dyke Lamb decided to focus on gerontological nursing and received her master’s degree in 1982. She then worked both as a nurse and a member of the faculty at RUSH for several years before realizing how much she loved mentoring students, which led her to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in 1991 and teach full time. She continued teaching at RUSH, both on campus and remotely, following a move to Beijing, China, before retiring in 2019.

Creating a Lasting Legacy to Support Nurses

After retiring, Van Dyke Lamb decided to make a gift to RUSH through her estate plans. She credits Christman’s innovative style and belief in the power of nursing education, the people she worked with and her students for shaping her experiences during her nearly five decades at RUSH — making her decision to leave a bequest easy.

“To be here at a time when the profession of nursing was moving forward was just a wonderful thing,” Van Dyke Lamb said. “All the people I worked with — there’s just nothing quite like it. When I was retiring, I knew I wanted to leave a legacy and support nurses. RUSH nurses are unique, and this is a great place for them to work. I wanted students to learn about RUSH’s background and promote professionalism in nursing.”

With her gift, which supports scholarships for students enrolled at RUSH University College of Nursing, Van Dyke Lamb will be able to make an impact on RUSH’s future while ensuring the availability of assets to her during her lifetime. Planned gifts of all sizes and designations from grateful patients, alumni, faculty, staff and more enable RUSH to fulfill its mission to provide the highest quality patient care, research, education and community outreach. As the field of health care evolves, deferred gifts help secure RUSH’s future and ensure that valuable resources will be there when they are needed most.

“I don’t think I would’ve had the career I had if it hadn’t been for RUSH,” Van Dyke Lamb said. “It gave me a good foundation for what nursing is all about and what it can be as a profession. It showed me nursing should have an equal seat at the table with all other health professions.”

To learn more about gift planning or discuss options that might be right for you, please contact Susan Sasvari, senior director of gift planning, at (312) 942-3691 or

All Alumni Weekend: Established in 1972, RUSH University is celebrating 50 years of excellence Oct. 21-22 during All Alumni Weekend. A weekend-long celebration, this event will connect alumni from all four colleges — RUSH University College of Nursing, RUSH Medical College, RUSH University College of Health Sciences and RUSH Graduate College — with University leaders, fellow alumni, current and former faculty, students, staff and friends, and showcase RUSH’s history and the University’s exciting vision for the future.

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