Repeat performance

What do you give two people who have given millions to help sick children—on the South Side, in the city of Chicago, in the nation, and through the world? On Wednesday University trustees, administrators, physicians, nurses, past patients, and friends gathered in the lobby of the U of C Comer Childrens Hospital and gave Gary Comer, founder of the Lands’ End catalog company, and his wife Francie a standing ovation. Then they did it again.

The Comers did it again, too, making a $42 million donation—the largest single gift in the University and Hospitals’ history—to create the Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care. The $100 million facility will adjoin the Comer Children’s Hospital, which opened in February 2005, and will house the Comer Pediatric Emergency Department (scheduled to open this year) as well as space dedicated to specialty ambulatory care, advanced operating rooms and procedural areas, and inpatient units. Of the gift, $8 million will be used to recruit more physician-scientists to continue providing state-of-the-art care to U of C patients while doing research that can have global impact. “It’s not good enough to do the same thing tomorrow for a child that we did today,” said Pediatrics Chair Steve Goldstein, in thanking the Comers. “We can always do better.”

Since 2001, counting their latest gift, the Comers have donated more than $84 million to support what Gary Comer called “the best pediatric hospital in the world.” And like Goldstein, Comer hoped those gifts won’t be the end of the story: “It’s up to everyone else to dig into their pockets, to come up with the programs, to do the funding—to keep this thing going.”


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Photos (left to right): The Comers at the announcement; Pediatrics Chair Steve Goldstein, Biological Sciences Dean James Madara, and Hospitals CEO Michael Riordan thank the benefactors; Former patient Ally Bain presented Comer with a poem.

Photos by Dan Dry

January 27, 2006