Silver Cross Hospital President and CEO Ruth Colby died Sunday.
Colby died “at a Chicago academic medical center from complications following a surgical procedure,” Silver Cross announced Monday.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and leader, Ruth Colby,” Jean Kenol, chairman of the Silver Cross board of directors, said in a statement accompanying a news release from the hospital in New Lenox.
“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 health care brand,” Kenol said. “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.”
Colby had been the CEO at the hospital since October 2017 but had become a familiar figure in the Will County community before that in her role as chief strategy officer and senior vice president of business development.
Colby had been with Silver Cross since 2005, when it still was in Joliet. The hospital later was relocated to New Lenox under her predecessor, Paul Pawlak.
The hospital board has appointed Michael Mutterer, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, as interim president and CEO.
The appointment was made at “a special meeting to address the transition and ensure the continuity of our commitment to the community,” Kenol said in his statement. “Michael’s experience and dedication to our hospital’s mission, values and culture make him the best choice to lead us through this transition.”
Silver Cross did not announce the day of Colby’s death.
But New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann confirmed that she died Sunday.
“She’s a good friend of mine,” said Baldermann, who learned of Colby’s death from her family. “She was a remarkable person when it came to quality health care. But more than that, she was a compassionate person for all people.”
Colby’s death “was really unexpected” after she was hospitalized for a condition that was not expected to be life-threatening, Baldermann said.
“She went into the hospital a few weeks ago for a heart procedure and, unfortunately, never made it back,” he said. “She was just a wonderful person. She’s going to be really missed.”
In the release, Silver Cross listed Colby’s accomplishments, including the hospital’s continued 100 Top Hospitals ranking, a five-star rating by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and 17 Straight A’s for Safety from the Leapfrog Group.
Under Colby’s leadership, Silver Cross opened Will County’s first Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit and introduced an open-heart surgery program.
Colby “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,” according to the release. “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.”
The Illinois Health and Hospital Association said, “Ruth Colby was a health care champion for the residents of Illinois, dedicating her life to the health and well-being of the people in the communities she served. Ruth’s commitment to health care and community service extended to her engagement with IHA, where she served in many roles, most recently as chair-elect of the IHA Board of Trustees.”
Colby was unanimously voted to serve as chair of the IHA board in 2024.
“This is such a loss for New Lenox and the communities of Will County, but also for the state of Illinois,” IHA President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi said. “Ruth was an accomplished and visionary health care leader, always focused on assuring everyone has access to quality health care.
“Ruth was also a personal friend and will be dearly missed by me and our entire team. On behalf of IHA, I want to extend my sincere condolences to Ruth’s family and her many friends, and to the wonderful team at Silver Cross Hospital.”
J.P. Gallagher, IHA board chair and president and CEO of NorthShoreEdward-Elmhurst Health said, “Ruth was a widely respected leader who made significant contributions to our field and brought both conviction and compassion to everything she did. She will be deeply missed.”
Colby also served at board chair for the Will County Center for Economic Development.
“Ruth has been an inspirational leader here at the CED and throughout the community,” the CED said in a released statement. “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.”
The Silver Cross Foundation said it will hold a private service at the hospital. Memorials to the Silver Cross Foundation can be made in Colby’s honor.
Ladies Night Out canceled for Oct. 19
Because of the unexpected death of Colby, Silver Cross decided to cancel the Ladies Night Out event set for Oct. 19 “as a sign of respect to Ruth as we mourn this devastating loss,” the hospital said.
The hospital said it will work on rescheduling the event and will send an update when available.