Ryans make another game-changing gift, this time to RIC
June 22nd, 2016
Patrick and Shirley Ryan, one of Chicago’s most philanthropic of couples, have made a game-changing gift to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and its yet-to-be-finished AbilityLab.
The amount of their donation is confidential but its legacy is loud and clear. RIC calls it a record and announced that the $550 million facility will be named the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. It is scheduled to open in 2017.
In an interview, RIC President and CEO Dr. Joanne C. Smith called the gift “transformative,” saying it’s the largest charitable investment in the organization’s 63-year history.
News of the gift to RIC follows a string of multi-million donations from the Ryans, a couple deeply involved in the city’s cultural and philanthropic institutions.
Earlier this month, the Ryans were announced as top donors of a $110 million project to overhaul Welsh-Ryan Arena at Northwestern University.
In November, the couple donated $25 million to the university to create endowed professorships. That pledge brought the couple’s total contributions to the school’s “We Will” fundraising campaign to more than $100 million. Their giving to the university over the years well exceeds $200 million.
The gift was years in the making. Smith and RIC Board Chair Jude Reyes approached the Ryans a few years ago about the idea and the Chicago couple warmed to the AbilityLab right away.
“It fits with their entrepreneurial spirit,” Smith told me. “All of their work and their passion has been in activities that are entrepreneurial, so this opportunity with RIC plays to their life’s work and certainly to Shirley’s passion.”
The Ryan’s donation will bring together scientists, clinicians and innovators to the AbilityLab, which will have five different innovation care centers for: brain, spinal cord, nerve/muscle/bones, pediatrics and cancer research.
The Ryans have for decades been at the forefront of philanthropic fundraising and cultural endeavors, including the Lyric Opera, Art Institute of Chicago and the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.
The couple’s wealth comes from his long career as an insurance executive. Pat Ryan founded Aon Corp. At the time of his retirement in 2008, Aon had in excess of $7 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries. Two years later, he went on to found Ryan Specialty Group, another insurance-related company for which he serves as CEO.
Ryan’s wife has for years led Pathways, a nonprofit the couple started in 1985 to offer therapy to children with birth-related disorders. The issue hit close to home for the Ryans, as their youngest of three sons was born with cerebral palsy.
In its release, RIC says Pathways, which has a clinic and web site, will move under the AbilityLab umbrella. Shirley Ryan will join RIC’s governing board and continue as chairwoman of Pathways.
“The integration between Pathways, RIC and the AbilityLab is historic — it makes possible a truly better future for children and adults from around the globe who need our support and services.”
RIC says that given the “monumental nature of the Ryans’ gift,” its board of directors has increased its capital campaign from $300 million to $350 million. The campaign launched in 2013 runs through 2017.
The Ryans’ gift is not just a testament to the RIC vision, says Smith. “It’s a sign of great momentum as RIC is now poised to meet, and even potentially exceed, our $350 million goal,” she said. “This will have a profound impact on patients, on science and on the future of our field.”