Beverly Huckman, Champion of Equal Opportunity

Beverly HuckmanBeverly Huckman, a champion for equality, affirmative action, diversity and inclusiveness who served for 38 years at Rush, died May 27 at her Chicago home. She was 77.

Huckman, who retired in 2012, was Rush’s associate vice president for equal opportunity and diversity.

“Beverly did some of the earliest work at Rush organizing our approach to diversity. She helped to found the ADA Task Force at Rush and did countless other things in support of equal rights for all. She touched many lives here and well beyond Rush,” said Larry Goodman, MD, the recently retired former CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health.

“Some people come into our lives for a season, but Beverly’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and equity has left a lasting impression on me and those of us who were blessed to know her,” says Terry Peterson, vice president of corporate and external affairs and chairperson of the Rush Diversity Leadership Council.

Inspired by ‘I Have a Dream’

Huckman’s commitment to equality was kindled by her childhood experience attending a segregated public school in Portsmouth, Virginia. She majored in government with an interest in African studies at Smith College, graduating with honors in 1963. That summer, she was in the crowd in the National Mall in Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which made a lifelong impression on her.

Huckman began her career working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia. She then moved with her husband, Michael Huckman, MD, to St. Louis, where he had a medical fellowship.

There, she represented public housing tenants in a rent strike that was settled in the tenants’ favor. Huckman helped write the settlement, which established the St. Louis Civic Alliance for Housing, paving the way for tenant management in public housing.

After moving to Evanston in 1970, she was a consultant to the Human Relations Commissions of both Evanston and Skokie and was instrumental in the establishment of public housing in both communities. In 1974, she became equal opportunity coordinator for academic affairs at what was then Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

“Beverly was a true leader and champion for diversity and inclusion at Rush,” said Cynthia Boyd, MD, MBA, vice president and chief compliance officer at the Medical Center and senior associate dean, diversity and inclusion, integrated medical education at Rush Medical College. “She was steadfast in her commitment to increase the number of underrepresented minorities and women at Rush at various levels and positions of leadership. She brought Rush along in this regard, blazing the trail. Rush is a better place because of Beverly, and she will be missed.”

Led award-winning diversity and equality efforts

Huckman was responsible for the development and implementation of the Rush Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action programs, the Policies and Procedures on Harassment, programs related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights policies and programs. Largely due to her efforts, Rush received the Henry Betts, MD, Award for significant contributions in promoting disability rights and employment advocacy.

She championed numerous initiatives aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of medical and nursing students from underrepresented minority groups, and she was a strong advocate for the professional development of women in academic medicine throughout her career. As a founding member of Rush’s Diversity Leadership Council, she was instrumental in helping to increase the diversity of the Rush Board of Trustees, senior management and university leadership.

She also was instrumental in the Medical Center receiving the U.S. Department of Labor “EVE Award” for Exemplary Voluntary Efforts in Equal Opportunity for Minorities, Women, Individuals with Disabilities, and Veterans in 2007, and receiving the LGBT Healthcare Equality award from the Human Rights Campaign over the years 2009 to 2012.

Huckman received the 1997 Eugene J-MA Thonar Award for outstanding contributions to advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, the 2005 Henry P. Russe, MD Humanitarian Award and the 2012 J. Robert Clapp Diversity Leadership Award.

Even after retiring from Rush, Huckman remained committed to Rush and its diversity and inclusion efforts. She continued to attend the Clapp Award ceremony at Rush each year and was in the audience for it in March.

“I saw her after a doctor’s visit just a few weeks ago, and we were planning an experience with area high school students,” said Sharon Gates, director of community engagement for Rush University. “I’m thankful for the privilege and honor of working with her.”

In addition to Michael, her husband of 54 years and the former director of Rush’s Section of Neuroradiology, Huckman is survived by their two sons, Andrew and Robert, and daughters-in-law Elaine and Jennifer, her grandson, Noah, brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Evelyn Blachman, many nieces and nephews, and her caregiver, Miriam Edwards.

Funeral services will be held 11:30 a.m., Thursday, May 30, at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, 1224 Dempster St., Evanston, IL 60202. Interment will be at Memorial Park Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to The Huckman Family Fund at Beth Emet or to Smith College. For funeral information, please call (847) 256-5700.

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