Rush Honors Susan Crown’s Board Leadership and Welcomes William A. Downe

Respected business leader and philanthropist, Crown has served Rush for nearly four decades

Susan Crown and Bill Downe

After leading Rush through the transformation of its Chicago campus, the growth of its system and the pandemic, Susan Crown is retiring as chair of the boards of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University System for Health. She will assume the position of chair emeritus of both boards.

Former CEO of BMO Financial Group William A. Downe will serve as the new chair of the boards of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University System for Health, effective July 1, 2024. Downe joined the Rush University Medical Center Board in 2010.

Since joining the Rush University Medical Center Board in 1986, Crown has served in various membership and key leadership roles on multiple committees, including facilities, nominations and governance, compensation and human resources, development, and campaign executive. She helped achieve success in three major Rush fundraising campaigns. 

As chair of the Rush University Medical Center facilities committee, Crown played a vital role in advancing the $1 billion renovation of the Chicago campus, including construction of Rush’s signature butterfly-shaped Tower building, which was the city’s first hospital to earn gold-level certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In honor of her unwavering dedication and leadership, Crown was awarded Rush’s highest honor, the Trustee Medal, in 2014. In 2018, Crown succeeded William M. Goodyear and became the first woman chair of the boards of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University System for Health.

'Vision and commitment'

“We are incredibly grateful for Susan’s visionary leadership and profound dedication to Rush,” says Dr. Omar Lateef, president and CEO of Rush University System for Health and Rush University Medical Center. “Her vision and commitment have helped us achieve significant milestones. Particularly, she aptly guided the institution through the tumultuous pandemic years with empathy and compassion, positioning us as the national response leader, while furthering Rush’s strategic goals.”

“With Susan’s guidance and support, Rush saved countless lives and emerged as a global leader in providing the highest quality of care to patients affected by COVID-19,” Lateef says. To ease clinician burnout during the pandemic, Crown also provided direction and philanthropic support to establish a Center for Clinical Wellness, a healing environment designed to support Rush employees, students and medical staff.

Throughout her tenure, Crown made it a priority to personally acknowledge and recognize Rush staff for all they do to help patients. In recognition of her exemplary leadership and significant contributions to the health care industry, Crown was awarded Modern Healthcare’s Excellence in Governance Award in 2022.

“Rush is a world-class health care system. It’s been a privilege to work with the talented management team, the thousands of people who make up the Rush workforce, and our remarkable trustees,” Crown says. “I have learned a great deal from Rush’s unwavering commitment to community, exceptional determination and resilience, and deep capacity to find innovative solutions to meet any moment. This was particularly evident during the pandemic. It has been an honor to work alongside the Rush team.”

A respected executive and philanthropist

Crown’s business and strategic acumen have had far-reaching impacts beyond health care. Since 2010, Crown has served as chair and CEO of Owl Creek Partners, a private equity firm with focused investments in real estate, securities and consumer products. She is also chair and founder of the Susan Crown Exchange, a foundation aimed at helping young people thrive in a rapidly changing world.

In her previous role as partner of Henry Crown & Co., she helped manage a diverse group of businesses ranging from oil and gas, defense, banking, cellular technology and real estate. As chairman of the Crown Family Philanthropies, she led numerous initiatives, including securing support for the iconic Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the Covenant Awards for leaders in Jewish education.

Crown has lent her time and talents to many other corporate, civic, and non-profit boards over the course of her career. In 1994, she became the first woman board member of Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and continues to serve as a director. She is also a director of Northern Trust Corp.

“Susan’s leadership and commitment to Rush’s mission and vision have been unwavering, and her dedication to excellence has set a high standard for other leaders at Rush to follow,” Downe says. “Throughout her tenure, Susan has demonstrated exceptional skills in collaboration, bringing together diverse perspectives for the greater good of Rush. We are grateful for her leadership, guidance, and tireless efforts for nearly four decades.”

Both Crown and Downe helped the organization advance its vision for health equity through the establishment of the RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity in 2021. The RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity links the many health equity initiatives that Rush has spearheaded for decades. It is committed to strategically connecting neighbors, community leaders, nonprofit organizations and other healthcare institutions to advance health equity — the idea that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. The Institute is a catalyst for community health and vitality through multifaceted approaches to dismantling barriers to health and promoting health equity both within and outside of Rush.

About William A. Downe

Downe brings a wealth of experience to the chair role. Having joined the Rush University Medical Center Board in 2010, he has also served in various membership and key leadership roles on multiple committees, including philanthropy, campaign, compensation and human resources, development and the RUSH health equity advisory council. Downe has a distinguished career and proven record of success as a banker, serving the BMO Financial Group with great distinction for over three decades, retiring in 2017 from his position as CEO.

“We are excited to welcome Bill to this new leadership role,” Lateef says. “His knowledge and passion for Rush will be vital as we advance our mission.”

Downe joined Bank of Montreal in 1983 and held a variety of senior management positions in Canada and the U.S. In 1999, he was appointed vice chair, Bank of Montreal and in 2001, he was named deputy chair, BMO Financial Group and chief executive officer, BMO Nesbitt Burns. In 2006, he was appointed chief operating officer of BMO Financial Group. He was appointed chief executive officer on March 1, 2007, of BMO Financial Group, retiring ten years later. Downe is former chairman of the board of St. Michael's Hospital, and a member of the Campaign Executive Board of The Campaign for the University of Toronto.

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