RUSH Welcomes Geena Davis



By Judy Carmack Bross




Geena Gavis’s book cover


Geena Davis’s Thelma partnered with Susan Sarandon’s Louise to create what was called “the last great film about women” on its 20th anniversary, and on its release triggered “the year of the woman” 32 years ago.  Obviously, Davis’s magic, commitment to women’s causes and freshness just keep driving her accomplishments. The Academy Award winning actor, author and activist will be the featured speaker at the nearly sold-out Woman’s Board of RUSH University Medical Center’s Spring Luncheon, which is set to welcome more than 500 guests to the Four Seasons Chicago on Monday, May 1.


For 28 years the Woman’s Board has had the uncanny ability to select provocative, powerful and often amusing speakers who hold hundreds of guests spellbound. We share photos of past luncheons in this article.


Steffie Madigan and Sharon Hayes – co-chairs of the Rush Woman’s Board 2023 Spring Luncheon


Luncheon Co-chairs Steffie Madigan and Sharon Hayes, told us about choosing Davis with fascinating facts on their speaker, confessing that they often call themselves Thelma and Louise as they worked closely planning the event.  An All-American baseball star in “A League of their Own,” a mouse mom in Stuart Little, the first female US President in Commander-in-Chief: but did you know that Davis almost went to the Olympics as an archer?


“In addition to her many acting credits, she also founded a non-profit organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.  Its mission is to work collaboratively within the entertainment industry to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media,” Hayes said.  “Among the Institute’s many initiatives is one that strives to increase depictions of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in the TV and film, as the Institute’s studies have found that such representations actually increase young girls’ interest in STEM fields.”


Madigan added:  “Ms. Davis has such a diverse group of skills, and what she has accomplished! She won many awards, including an Oscar for The Accidental Tourist; a Golden Globe for television for Commander-in-Chief; the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, presented by the Academy Awards for her work with her Institute; and most recently, the Governors Award, presented by the Emmys, in Fall 2022.”


Fascinated by the archery competition at the 1996 Summer Olympics, Davis took up the sport in 1997.  By 2000, she was vying with 300 other women for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. At 24th place, she fell just short of qualifying for the team. 

 The Book Stall will be selling at the Luncheon her Dying of Politeness: A Memoir, published in October 2022, which details a career where she played everything from an amnesiac assassin, to mother of a mouse to the iconic Thelma as well as her very eclectic childhood and determination to be an actor at the age of three.


Gloria Materre and WGN’s Micah Materre at the 2022 Spring Luncheon


Hayes shared another varied role Davis assumed early in her career to pay her rent.  “She took a job as a salesperson at Ann Taylor and, on a whim, jumped into a window display and acted like a motionless mannequin. She drew quite a crowd!  At one point a handsome waiter who worked in the building jumped into the window with her. He later became her first husband!”


Colby Gaines and Fall Benefit 2023 chair Melissa Hennessy at the 2022 Spring Luncheon


 This year the Spring Luncheon will benefit RUSH’s next investment campaign, the goal of which is to make concentrated investments in the areas that are most likely to improve the health of the region, including innovations in care and patient experience, medical research, health equity initiatives, and even education and career pathways (i.e. helping to ensure there will be a strong health care workforce in the future).  The investment that the Woman’s Board will help support is intended to positively impact the future of healthcare for decades to come. 


We asked the Co-Chairs, close friends who share mutual godchildren, what is it about the Spring Luncheon that makes it a sold-out success each year?  “It is a tradition that has been around so long and our speakers have been so strong.  They have all been intelligent, motivating, and entertaining,” Hayes said.


Madigan – whose mother-in-law Holly Madigan co-chaired the Spring Luncheon three times, whose sister-in-law Melanie Nordby is an active member of the Woman’s Board, and whose father-in-law John Madigan has served on the RUSH board for 50 years – commented: “people of all ages look forward to coming together and seeing one another. It celebrates Spring.”


A native of Columbus, Ohio, Hayes recalled that the discontinued Woman’s Board Fashion Show was the event everyone wanted to attend for so many years, and that the Luncheon was created to publicize that Show as well as have another fundraiser during the year.  “We are so proud of the Luncheon’s reputation of having a purposeful and heartfelt focus.”


Mary Lasky, Shauna Montgomery and Leigh Ann Herman at the 2022 Spring Luncheon


The Woman’s Board of RUSH University Medical Center has more than 200 members from both the city and the suburbs. “Outreach is all important to our board and RUSH doctors make key presentations at our meetings,” Madigan said.  “In addition, our board has much fun together and it definitely isn’t a hard sell to get our whole board involved with the Spring Luncheon.”


Samantha Schwalm, Laura Malec and Marianne Berger at the 2022 Spring Luncheon


For more information about the Woman’s Board of RUSH University Medical Center, visit: