Nancy Knowles Garden


Nancy Knowles Bequeaths Generous Eight-Figure Gift

Posted By Meg Washburn Give Now


The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) today announced that Nancy W. Knowles has bequeathed an eight-figure gift to advance its revolutionary work.

Knowles’ gift — the amount of which is confidential — will support the capital campaign for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, RIC’s state-of-the-art research hospital, set to open in March 2017. The $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot facility will be the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists will work together in the same space, applying (or “translating”) research real time.

Specifically, Knowles’ gift will underwrite the hospital’s Strength and Endurance Lab — a dynamic therapeutic space that will serve patients requiring assessment and improvement of complex motor and endurance activities. In this living lab — one of five that will be housed in the new hospital — researchers will work full time in the clinical space surrounding patients. With direct, ongoing exposure to a clinical environment, they will conduct research with even greater intention, based on the needs of patients that they themselves observe. This structure will lead to better, faster patient outcomes, and even cures.Strength + Endurance

Knowles’ gift will also underwrite a lush, expansive outdoor green space adjacent to the building’s 10th floor Sky Lobby which will be known as “Nancy’s Garden.”

“Nancy is a remarkable woman who has always exhibited a generous spirit and unrelenting drive,” said Joanne C. Smith, M.D., RIC president and CEO. “Her wonderful gift will allow us to imbue this spirit in key spaces within the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, empowering and inspiring our patients, clinicians and researchers alike.” The daughter of an orthopedist, Knowles was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She moved to the Chicagoland area in 1974 to join Knowles Electronics Inc. in Itasca, Ill., which was founded by the late Hugh Knowles. She was married to Knowles from 1979 until his death in1988. She held various roles in the company, ultimately leading it as chairwoman. Today, she serves as president and treasurer of the Knowles Foundation.

“RIC helped me tremendously and is now making an enormous investment in its new hospital, which will result in novel possibilities and faster cures,” said Knowles. “It will establish an entirely new model of translational research and clinical care, and I’m honored to be able to support this very worthy mission.”

RIC’s $350 million capital  campaign is expected to close in December 2017 and, currently, all new campaign contributions will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $8.75 million total. Gifts can be made directly online or by calling 312.238.6013.

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