Bejeweled and Bedazzled: The U of C Research Foundation Gala








Gemstone colored ball gowns, Verdura jewelry at live auction—you could hardly conjure a more glittering gala or one with a more resplendent purpose than the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women’s Board 52nd Annual Breakthrough Ball. And the dazzling results? $1.7 million raised for the continued support of cancer research at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.


Co-chairs Eileen Murphy and Jennifer Rhind.

Co-Chairs Eileen Murphy, elegant in sapphire blue, and Jennifer Rhind, glorious in ruby red, as well as Women’s Board President Diane Reilly, elegantly modeling the Verdura Torsade bracelet, mingled all night among the 450 guests at the Four Seasons Hotel.


President Diane Reilly models Verdura.


Recipients of the Partners in Discovery Award, Cynthia and Benjamin Chereskin.


Event design by HMR.

Cynthia and Benjamin Chereskin received the Partners in Discovery Award, established in 2003 by the UCCRF Women’s Board to honor corporations, foundations, and individuals who have taken an extraordinary leadership position in supporting cancer research.

Following cocktails, guests were treated to a moving performance by singer-songwriter MILCK. The celebration continued as guests dined as candles sparkled, then danced late into the evening to Dr. Bombay.

Eileen explained the evening’s theme, Cancer Can’t Wait:

“Ogilvy and Mather masterfully created a video highlighting the importance of the groundbreaking research taking place at the U of C, and several patients were featured in the emotionally stirring and inspirational video. Both Jennifer and I agreed that the best part of the year long planning process was seeing several of the patients featured in the video dancing the night away to Dr. Bombay at the Breakthrough Ball 2018. And we danced with them!”

We asked Eileen and Jennifer what motivated them to join the Women’s Board, and they gave us very moving answers. Eileen explained:

“Everyone has a cancer story that hits home, and that is what prompts one to action. My sister was 31 and had just given birth to her beautiful daughter when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. After a difficult but successful surgery and arduous recovery, she is now the proud mother of 3 beautiful children.

“Fast-forward several years and my mother, a young and vibrant 70-year-old, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After a rigorous and exacting protocol of chemotherapy and radiation followed by surgery and more chemo, she is feeling fantastic and is more active than ever.

“This confluence of events, coupled with conversations with Women’s Board members, prompted me to join the board in 20013. The intelligent, driven, and dedicated women on the board are inspiring—we have had big shoes to fill as co-chairs.”

A close friend first introduced Jennifer to the UCCRF. She learned more about its mission during her children’s years at the Laboratory Schools when she met many doctors working in the Comprehensive Cancer Center. When Jennifer’s father-in-law, a Life Trustee of U of C, died of complications from multiple myeloma in 2013, his example became a call to action: “Every day I feel grateful and inspired to work beside the exceptional women on the board.”

Although planning the ball was a daunting task, Eileen and Jennifer echoed that they have benefitted from the support and guidance of fellow board members, the UCCRF Board of Trustees, past and current board presidents, and former ball chairs. Both Eileen and Jennifer, whose friendship became even closer as they coordinated an event of such magnitude and detail, are so grateful for the support engendered by their dynamic Women’s Board.


Eileen Murphy, Dr. Michelle LeBeau, Diane Reilly, and Jennifer Rhind.

 Looking back at the glimmering gala, Jennifer said, “It is humbling to be at this point. We thank our wonderful board members, generous supporters, the UCCRF Board of Trustees, our incredible presenting sponsors, corporate underwriters, and all those who have made this possible.”




For almost 75 years, the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women’s Board has been providing seed-funding to support some of the most leading edge research at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center. This support provides new tools, talent, and technologies that have led to breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer. To date, the Women’s Board has raised over $20 million for innovative research at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For more information about the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation, go to


Pim Alley, Cathy Busch, and Whitley Bouma Herbert.


Jean and John Atchison.


Annette Carroll, Connie Duckworth, Cecilia Buerkle, Margaret Benjamin, and Annemette Clausen.


Karen McEniry.


Zaid Alsikafi and Merrick Axel.


Wells Ryan and Jen Kasten.


Karen and Andrew Slimmon.


Frank Brumfield, Mary Frances Brumfield, and Michael Werner.


Arthur and Mary Kay Bushonville.


Some of the evening’s raffle girls.


Phoebe DePree.


Liz Ryan, Andrea Garber, Heather Webster, Eileen Murphy, Elizabeth Cole, and Karen McEniry.


Mary and Rob Conrad.


Nina Essandoh, Stephanie Werner Payen, Kristen Atchison, and Shawn Riegsecker.

Photo credit: fig media