Grube makes history as first female board chair

Ann Grube didn’t intend to make history when she started volunteering with The Community House in 1983. She and her husband, John, had just moved to Hinsdale from Manhattan.

“Someone said, ‘If you really want to meet people, you need to get involved at the Antiques Show at The Community House and you’ll meet hundreds of people,’ and that’s exactly how it began,” Grube recalled.

Margaret Guido assigned her the job of public relations for the show, which used to be one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers each year.

“I said, ‘I don’t even know the town,’ ” Grube said. “She said, ‘You’ll get to know it.’ ”

And she did.

“I made a hundred and how many new friends and met everybody and that’s what really started my engagement with The Community House, and it just grew and grew and grew,” she related.

Before long she was on the board, and then, from 1998 to 2000, its chair. Previously, under the leadership of Ly Hotchkin (the organization’s first female executive director) businessmen had typically held the post.

“I think, to Ly’s credit, she wanted corporate executives to be chair of the board, because not only did they bring their own personal support, they brought corporate support,” Grube said. “That was a classic not-for-profit chairman of the board structure for years.

“Then it was like, wait a minute, the corporations sort of left Chicago and it changed. Philanthropy was not just male. There are women that can also give and there are women that would love to have leadership roles.”

Grube claims she got the job as board chairman because no one else wanted it, but I doubt that’s true. A former corporate banking officer, Grube successfully led a fundraising campaign to renovate the building at 415 W. Eighth St. and add the fieldhouse.

“I never thought about being the first woman,” she said. “I had a fantastic board, and to me that’s the key — you are united in mission. We knew what we needed to do and we wanted to do. We needed to raise $10 million, which we did. We needed to refurbish and add to The Community House so it continued to serve the communities that it did.”

Grube said she never experienced gender discrimination in her philanthropic work or as a student at Stanford University from 1970-74. Unfortunately, that was not the case in her professional life.

“You know where the discrimination was? The salary. That’s where I think women really had a hard time. I think it’s a little bit better, but I don’t think it’s equal yet,” she said.

Grube also recalled the conversation she had with her boss when she was pregnant with her first child and told him she intended to resign to raise her family. He told her she should have just stayed home, chained to the stove, and had babies.

“He would be sued now,” she said. “A boss would never say that to a female employee now. That’s progress.”

With one granddaughter among her three grandchildren and another on the way, Grube said she hopes the girls encounter a world where they have all the same opportunities as men.

“I would hope that they would achieve as much as they want to achieve and not encounter some of the barriers that I think were certainly there professionally,” she said. “I never felt the barriers academically, but I’m sure they exist.

“To me, it’s being able to have those opportunities to lead a full life, right? That’s what we all want.”

I couldn’t agree more.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean