Community Mourns Loss of Ruth Colby, Visionary, Mentor and Friend

Ruth Colby
Ruth Colby
Silver Cross Hospital announced the untimely passing of President and Chief Executive Officer Ruth Colby. Ruth passed away at a Chicago academic medical center from complications following a surgical procedure.
During her six-year tenure as President and Chief Executive Officer, Ruth’s visionary leadership earned Silver Cross national recognition for safety, quality and experience as evidenced by its 100 Top Hospitals ranking 11 times, a 5-Star Rating by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and 17 Straight A’s for Safety from the Leapfrog Group.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and leader, Ruth Colby,” said Jean Kenol, Chairman of the Silver Cross Board of Directors in a press release.
“Ruth was a true servant leader and a driving force in transforming Silver Cross from a community hospital to a regional medical center and nationally recognized healthcare brand. She was an inspiration to us all, was beloved by our hospital community and she loved them passionately in return. We will miss her terribly.”
Under Ruth’s leadership, Silver Cross opened Will County’s first and only Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in 2022 – the 24-bed Amy, Matthew & Jay Vana Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; introduced an open-heart surgery program in 2019, that is now one of the busiest in the State of Illinois; and championed the Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross in 2012, which is among the top three robotic surgery programs in the Midwest.
Ruth also forged partnerships with several leading Chicago health systems, bringing world-class care to the southwest suburbs so residents could receive the most advanced care close to home. These include the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services; University of Chicago Medicine for cancer services and neurosciences; Rush University Medical Center for lung surgery; and Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for pediatric and neonatal services. In addition, she partnered with US HealthVest to build the 110-bed Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital on the Silver Cross Campus, which opened in early 2019.
Ruth assumed the duties of President and Chief Executive Officer on Oct. 1, 2017, after serving as Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for 12 years. Throughout her tenure, Ruth worked closely with the hospital Board of Directors to set the organization’s vision and strategic direction.
Her exceptional business acumen and visionary leadership led to transformational growth for Silver Cross Hospital over the years – expanding from a 289-bed hospital when the hospital opened its New Lenox campus in 2012 to 348 beds today.
During that time, the hospital’s medical staff also increased dramatically – from 350 medical staff members to more than 1,200 – attracted by the hospital’s commitment to providing exceptional care while investing in the latest medical technologies.
“Ruth was a good friend of mine, and a great leader in our community,” said New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann. “Her passion for quality healthcare, and compassion for all people, was something to be admired. She will be missed greatly.“
“Ruth Colby was the finest example of a servant leader I have had the opportunity to work with,” said Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy. “She was an extraordinary person who cared about all whom she met and will be missed greatly.”
Ruth also expanded the hospital’s footprint through successful ventures in surgery, imaging services and medical group expansions. Silver Cross now has more than a dozen locations throughout its service area in Will County.
“I’m devastated by Ruth’s passing,” said Silver Cross Chief of Staff Joseph Hindo, M.D. “She was a dear friend, a trusted and valued colleague, and 100 percent committed to delivering the very best patient care in our community. She was devoted to the entire hospital community, and the Silver Cross Medical Staff respected her immensely.”
Ruth was also very active outside of the hospital – both in community organizations and healthcare associations. She served as Chair-Elect of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) and was slated to become Chair in 2024. Ruth also had recently been appointed to the American Hospital Association’s Regional Planning Board for Region 5.
“Ruth was a visionary leader in every sense of the word,” said A.J. Wilhelmi, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. “She was a force for positive change and truly a force of nature. She made so many valuable contributions to IHA. We will miss Ruth more than words can say.”
Ruth also served as a Past President of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, an American Hospital Association group and received the national award for Individual Personal Achievement in 2009.
A passionate advocate for the community, Ruth also gave generously of her time and talents to numerous community boards. She was Chair of the Will County Center for Economic Development, on the board of the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, a member of the United Way of Will County Pillars Society, the Joliet Rotary Club and the Economic Club of Chicago.
“Our hearts are broken over the loss of true leader who served on the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center Board of Directors,” said CAC Executive Director Lisa Las. “Ruth was a brilliant and kind, quiet giant who worked hard and deeply loved her community, Silver Cross Hospital, and her family.”
“She was a genuinely compassionate human being, and cannot be replaced,” said Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, who created the Will County CAC. “It’s very, very sad.”
The Will County CED issued the following statement on Ruth’s passing:
“Ruth has been an inspirational leader here at the CED and throughout the community. As our Chair for the last two years, Ruth was a mentor and inspiration to all of us. Throughout her career, Ruth achieved not only extraordinary professional success, but also touched the lives of so many that were fortunate enough to work alongside her. She led us with an infectious enthusiasm and a positive energy that will be terribly missed.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Ruth’s family, friends, and the Silver Cross Hospital team during this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they grieve the loss of a remarkable leader.
“While we mourn her loss, let us also remember the bright light and spirit she shared with us. We are driven to carry forward the legacy of generosity and unity she left behind by continuing to work together to create the best possible Will County for all its people.”
Ruth’s passion for achieving health equity and helping the less advantaged in the hospital’s service area, particularly on the east side of Joliet, led to the creation of the Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission (HCC) in 2008. Under Ruth’s guidance, this community-based organization has been focused on creating a stronger, healthier future by providing support for education, workforce development training, and enrichment activities for youth, to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve.
Since its founding, the HCC has awarded over $3 million in educational scholarships, workforce development, and grants to numerous east-side Joliet residents and organizations.
In 2021, Ruth received the Athena Award from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and was named by Crain’s Chicago Business a Notable Woman in Healthcare and Notable Woman Executive over age 50 in 2019.
In 2023, she was named New Lenox Citizen of the Year by the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce and a Notable Healthcare Executive by Crain’s Chicago Business. And this week, Ruth was to receive the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Rainbow Council of the Boy Scouts.
“I am extremely sad to learn about the death of Ruth Colby,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “Ruth was an exemplary civic leader. I appreciated her passion for her work, her mentorship, and most importantly, her friendship. Ruth was a servant leader and her legacy is the outstanding health care institution she helped create in Will County.”

Jen Howard, President of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said Colby had a natural gift of thoughtfully connecting individuals and organizations together for their mutual benefit, a special gift that will have a lasting impact in the community.
“Ruth was not only one of the greatest leaders our community has ever had the fortune to have but was also a mentor, champion and true friend to so many,” Howard added.
“When you were in a conversation with Ruth, it was clear that she was giving her undivided attention. Ruth was wickedly smart but was the most humble person I have ever met.”

New leadership
“With Ruth’s passing, the Silver Cross Hospital Board of Directors held a special meeting to address the transition and ensure the continuity of our commitment to the community,” Kenol said.
“After careful consideration and unanimous agreement, we have appointed Michael Mutterer, RN, MA, LCPC, CADC, LNHA, Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer, as Interim President & Chief Executive Officer. Michael’s experience and dedication to our hospital’s mission, values, and culture make him the best choice to lead us through this transition.”
Mutterer joined Silver Cross in April 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and was instrumental in guiding the hospital’s nursing and clinical teams through this unprecedented period in the hospital’s history.
“Michael is a tireless advocate for excellent patient care, and we have the utmost confidence in him as he assumes the role of Interim President & Chief Executive Officer,” Kenol added. “And we’re equally confident that Ruth’s legacy will live on at Silver Cross and in each and every employee working to improve the lives of the patients they serve. On behalf of the Silver Cross Board of Directors and our entire Silver Cross Family, we extend our deepest condolences to Ruth’s family.”

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