Class Notes

Dr. Whitney Wood Addington ’53

February 28, 2020

Dr. Whitney Wood Addington, 84, passed away peacefully at his home in Chicago on
February 10, 2020 surrounded by his family. Dr. Addington was a superb physician,
healthcare leader, research scientist, and lover of the arts. He graduated from Deerfield
Academy and Princeton University where he majored in English followed by medical
school and residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University. Upon completion
of his training, Dr. Addington served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Public
Health Service in Oklahoma City, during which time he completed a Masters of Science
at the University of Oklahoma School of Public Health. At the conclusion of his military
service, he became a N.I.H. Postgraduate Fellow in Thoracic Services at the Boston
University Medical School before returning to Chicago, where he was recruited by Dr.
Quentin Young to be Chairman of the Pulmonary Division for Cook County Hospital. His
years at County and the people he worked with there were some of his favorites and set
the standard for the rest of his career. While there, he built a TB outreach program, a
mobile medical care team that went out into some of the most underserved areas of the
city to provide onsite TB therapy.
After Cook County he moved to the University of Chicago where he served as Professor
of Medicine and Chairman of the Pulmonary Medicine Department. While there he
began his life long care of cystic fibrosis patients and their families. Patients called him
directly at any hour and he made visits to their homes. He took care of them when they
were teenagers to the end of their lives. He celebrated the incredible advances in
therapy for this disease, and each patient followed him to every medical institution he
moved to. He then returned to Northwestern University where he once again served as
the Chairman of Pulmonary Division and became the President of the Chicago Board of
Health from 1989 to 1999. Throughout his career he taught and lectured, and published
over 100 papers on pulmonary disease and public health focusing on TB, asthma of
patients in the inner city, and cystic fibrosis. He became committed to health care
reform and was one of the leading voices in the fight for universal health care, and
social justice and equity in medical care. This became his primary focus during his
tenure as President of the American College of Physicians.
His last academic appointment was as Professor of Medicine, Family Practice, and
nursing at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago and Director of the
Rush Primary Care Institute where he worked to promote new models of primary care
within communities. Because of his long term commitment to issues of public health he
served on the Poverty and Health Committee of the World Health Organization in
Geneva Switzerland. After retiring from his medical practice, Dr. Addington continued to
work in Public Health as a visiting Professor to the London School of Tropical Medicine.
During that time he travelled extensively in Africa working on projects to contain and
eradicate the spread of Malaria. He loved these trips with younger faculty and continued
to learn from his visits to refugee camps where he helped institute point of care testing
for Malaria.
He was the recipient of many awards including an honorary Doctorate of Science from
New York Medical College, as well as several other awards for his life-long commitment
to health care including the award for Most Outstanding Professor at Northwestern
University Medical School, the President’s Award for Leadership in Family Medicine
from the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, The Herbert DeYoung Medal from the
Chicago Lung Association, the George Howell Coleman Medal from the Institute of
Medicine in Chicago, and the Henry P. Russe Award for Compassion in Medicine from
the Institute of Medicine in Chicago.
He was a man of boundless energy, and would regularly return to Chicago after three
days of travelling from Africa only to shower and go to a cubs game or a night at Lyric
Opera. He was truly a man of the people, a charismatic leader and loyal friend who
engaged with great enthusiasm, pretty much anyone who crossed his path. It didn’t
really matter if you were his grandchild, a person seated next to him on a bus or plane,
the Mayor, or a Somalian immigrant. Everybody got the same treatment. He wanted to
know where you were from, if you had kids, how they were all doing, and what they
thought about. He touched so many lives with his warmth and interest, empathy, and a
flowing abundance of humor. He had stories for every occasion and a laugh and
charging gait that was instantly recognizable.
Gratified by his many career accomplishments and years of fanatic support for Lyric
Opera, a passion matched perhaps only by his seventy-six years as a fixture at Wrigley
Field, he was clearly most proud of his family, his wife Ada, his four daughters,
son-in-laws, and eleven grandchildren. Whitney was utterly devoted to all of them and,
along with Ada, played master of ceremonies for what seemed at the time, an endless
parade of adventures, inner-tubing and fishing trips, visits to the opera, symphony, and
musicals, Cubs, Bulls and Bears games, safaris, and so many dinners, parties and
weddings at which he always had something loving, inclusive and unwaveringly funny to
say. Through all of it he had a gift for making everyone feel loved and important.
He lived a large life, travelling everywhere, meeting people from every walk of life, with
enough adventures, appointments and causes for several men, but arguably one of his
greatest moments came when he found himself in Cleveland the night the heavens
opened, the rains fell, and the Cubs drought finally came to an end. But for his children
and grandchildren, he was the ultimate Grandpa, not only for his own kids, but all
their friends and really, for anyone who simply needed a grandpa, a friend or an
advocate.
Whitney was born on August 23, 1935 in Chicago, the son of Sarah Wood Armour and
James Addington. Whitney is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ada Forgan Addington
and daughters, Joanie Addington-White (Peter Addington-White), Sarah Addington
Emanuel, Hilary Addington (Michael Cahill) and Anne Addington; and 11 grandchildren
Alexander, Ellery, India, and Emma Addington-White; Ashlee, Noah, Ezra, and Leo
Emanuel; Nicholas, Phoebe, and Jane Cahill. He was a source of optimism and hope to
all of them and will live in theirs, and many others hearts forever.