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Giving Back Blog

  • Writer's pictureAscension Illinois Foundation

The Kanes help healthcare workers reach their potential

Through a generous estate gift, the late Dr. James Kane Sr. and Gloria D’Ambrosio Kane continue to seek the potential in healthcare workers and encourage them to advance their educations, develop their gifts and enhance the joy of helping others.

Drs. Mary Kane and James Kane Jr. described their parents as people who looked for the

potential in others. When they saw an innate gift in someone else, they tried to cultivate it —

whether in their children or grandchildren, Gloria D’Ambrosio Kane’s biology students, or Dr.

James Kane Sr.’s colleagues on the Allied staff at Ascension Alexian Brothers.

“They both advocated for and encouraged people to reach their potential, whatever that was,”

said their daughter, Dr. Mary Kane, who was on staff at Ascension Alexian Brothers for 35 years

before she retired from gastroenterology. “It absolutely was about people getting to make the

best use of their gifts for their own benefit and to benefit other people.”

Although Dr. James Kane Sr. and Gloria D’Ambrosio Kane have passed away, they remarkably

continue to encourage and advocate for others. They generously made an estate gift to support

Ascension Alexian Brothers and Ascension Saint Alexius Allied staff who seek to develop their

talents and skills through education.

The value of education and encouragement

Dr. James Kane Sr. was always encouraged by his parents to pursue his education. He also

benefited from the positive role model set by his older brother and by many of the Jesuits who

taught him at the University of Scranton. Their encouragement stuck.

He married a woman who also believed deeply in the value of education: Gloria D’Ambrosio

Kane earned a master’s degree in zoology in the 1940s and served as a lab assistant at

Northwestern University. She went on to teach high school biology in Chicago until she became

pregnant with her first child. Together, they had four children: Dr. Mary Kane; Dr. James Kane

Jr., a surgeon on staff at Ascension Alexian Brothers and Ascension Saint Alexius; Dr. M.

Elizabeth Kane, DDS; and Patricia Kane Schmidt, who with her mother’s encouragement and

guidance pursued careers in engineering and in intellectual property law.

“Our mother was good at matching people’s talents and interests to a career path, and that,

again, was part of our parents’ ability together to recognize talent and nurture it among the

people around them,” said Dr. Mary Kane.

The Kane family legacy lives on

With the encouragement of his parents, brother and teachers, and in partnership with his wife,

Dr. James Kane Sr. became an avid lifelong learner. He was a practicing surgeon for 47 years

in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, retiring at age 80. He was a pioneer in laparoscopic and

bariatric surgery — work that his son, Dr. James Kane Jr., carries on today through his surgical


“Our father supported continuing medical education and continuing improvement in techniques and practices to take care of people,” said Dr. Mary Kane. “He embraced change.”

While many of his family members carry on his passion for medicine, his and his wife’s legacy

now also lives on through the Dr. James and Gloria Kane Sr. Education Fund.

Advancing education for healthcare workers

Established in 2019 through their estate gift, the fund advances Dr. James Kane Sr. and Gloria

D’Ambrosio Kane’s passions for education, for medicine and for giving back to the community. It

also is a symbol of their gratitude to the Alexian Brothers; Dr. James Kane Sr. began his career

at their hospital in Chicago and built his practice with Alexian Brothers in the northwest suburbs.

The fund provides educational scholarships for Ascension Alexian Brothers and Ascension

Saint Alexius associates, including registered nurses, patient care technicians and physician

assistants, who are focused on advancing their careers and education. This type of scholarship

support is especially needed now, at a time when hospitals across the nation face staffing

shortages. The Kane children hope their parents’ gift will inspire others to give to support

education for healthcare workers.

“I am grateful that the Kanes valued and recognized the importance of continuing education for our

nurses and leaders in an ever-evolving healthcare environment,” said Polly Davenport, D.Sc.,

RN, FACHE, Ascension Illinois Ministry Market Executive. “As a surgeon, Dr. Kane knew

firsthand that the competency and fluency of skill among the entire team is imperative to staff

engagement and successful patient outcomes. I appreciate their acknowledgment of the value

of education through this generous donation.”

“Joy in helping other people”

Most people get into medicine because they want to improve other people’s lives, so kindness

and integrity tend to be the norm among people working in the field, and that is one of the

privileges of working in medicine, Dr. Mary Kane said. For example, beyond his surgical

practice, Dr. James Kane Jr. also helps as a member of the Foundation’s Physicians Council,

which addresses unmet community health needs through philanthropy.

“There is a lot of joy in helping other people,” Dr. Mary Kane added. “It’s a very special thing.”

Their parents’ legacy lives on and continues to make a difference, both in their immediate family

and in their extended family at Ascension Alexian Brothers and Ascension Saint Alexius.

Through their philanthropy, the Kanes continue to seek the potential in others and encourage

them to advance their education, develop their gifts and enhance the joy of helping others.


Help provide compassionate
care to all in Chicago

Share your story

Share your Ascension Illinois story of hope and healing. Please contact:

Emily Dagostino

Director, Communications

Ascension Illinois Foundation


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