Published on September 20, 2021

Silver Cross President and CEO Ruth Colby Earns 2021 Athena Award for Leadership, Involvement and Support of Women

Ruth Colby-Athena AwardAccepting her Athena Award from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of Working Women last Wednesday, Silver Cross Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Ruth Colby reflected on a storied career spanning 45 years that began in an entirely different field…as a teacher of the deaf.

Over the next four decades, Colby switched jobs, careers and industries, breaking through many glass ceilings and eventually becoming president and CEO of the nationally recognized New Lenox hospital in October 2017.

“I found my passion and my purpose – working at a not-for-profit that positively impacted individuals and the community at large,” she said of her first healthcare position at the University of Chicago Hospitals as a strategic planner in the late 1980s. “These remain my passions and priorities at Silver Cross. For me, finding a purpose and being passionate about the work gives me the energy to show up every day, commit to do my best and withstand the storms, whether it’s a tornado or a pandemic.”

Athena Award Recognition

For her many contributions to the community and as a mentor to other women aspiring to leadership, Colby received the 34th annual ATHENA Award. The award honors exceptional female leaders who demonstrate the highest levels of professional excellence, contribute time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and actively assist others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential. 

In announcing the award last month, Joliet Region Chamber officials noted Colby’s involvement in championing the role of women in the workplace: “Ruth Colby has seen the evolution of women’s roles dramatically transform during her 45-year career. Many women have paved the way for not only her, but others gaining a seat at the table and because of those leaders, she continually works to pay it forward.” 

Colby joined Silver Cross in 2005 as Chief Strategy Officer and in 2017 was named President and CEO. Under her leadership, Silver Cross has expanded its programs and services, developed partnerships with leading academic medical centers, and earlier this year earned the “triple crown for healthcare,” with a Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals ranking, a 5-Star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and an A for Patient Safety from the Leapfrog group – all in the same year. 

As a mentor, Colby strives to create pathways for women at Silver Cross and within the community by offering such programs as leadership training, support groups, and professional development.

She has been a model for community involvement, serving with the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, Will County Center for Economic Development, the United Way of Will County Pillars Society and the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women’s board, to name a few.

In April 2019, Colby was named one of Crain Chicago Business' Notable Women Over 50, and in November, she was named to Crain's Notable Women in Healthcare.

In summing up the lessons she’s learned over her career, Colby offered these words of wisdom to women aspiring to leadership positions: “Don’t be afraid to take risks, be flexible, be dependable and be resilient. Dream big, but don’t expect handouts – find your purpose and your passion, work hard and the rest will come. Create a strong network of women in your life –   Invest your time and your heart in friendships with both women and men – you will never be disappointed.”

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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.