March 11, 2018
Northwest Side Irish Parade
ROLF M. GUNNAR, M.D.
After serving as Chief of Cardiology and Chairman of the Department of Medicine
at Cook County, and then Chief of Cardiology and Chairman of the Department of
Medicine at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Dr. Gunnar retired
from academic medicine. In 2005 he joined his soon to be wife, Marge, on the
Board of Directors of BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center.
Shortly thereafter, he assumed the role of Chair of that Board. Under his direction
BraveHearts arranged for purchase of the property in Harvard, IL, as well as the
property in Poplar Grove, IL. Programming for challenged children and adults
soon expanded to six days per week.
Dr. Gunnar is highly respected for his accomplishments within the field of
Medicine. He has trained and mentored thousands of young physicians many of
whom have, themselves, gone on to be highly respected leaders, teachers, researchers
and administrators within the medical profession.
In 2015, Dr. Gunnar received the Centennial Legacy Award for the northern
Illinois region of the American College of Physicians as the region’s physician of
the century in recognition of his leadership, accomplishments, and contributions to
the American College of Physicians.
Being a decorated Korean War Veteran, his interest in serving veterans brought
about the establishment of one of the early equine-assisted therapy programs
programs in the Country working with physically and emotionally wounded
military veterans. In 2007, BraveHearts received one of the first five grants
awarded by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and, in July of that year,
began accepting veterans from all of the area VA hospitals.
Under Dr. Gunnar’s vision and leadership, BraveHearts has become the largest andmost innovative program of its kind in the Country serving military veterans.
Prior to founding BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center in Harvard, IL, Marge Gunnar’s background was, for over 40 years, in medical administration. She began her administrative career as Assistant to the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and then served as Administrative Director to the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL.
In 1993, after receiving the usually catastrophic diagnosis of ovarian cancer, Marge experienced the healing power that horses can possess through her soulful connection to her Lipizzan stallion. Five years after her diagnosis and treatment, she was considered a “statistical cure”.
It was at that point that she knew she had to find a way to give back for surviving a disease to which so many other women succumb. The seeds of BraveHearts had been sewn, and Marge set on her quest to establish what she thought would be a little therapeutic horseback riding program. At the tender age of 60, she married for the very first time to the man she describes as the most amazing person she has ever known.
Her new husband, Dr. Rolf Gunnar, then took over the reins as Chair of the BraveHearts Board. One of his early actions was to bring Meggan Hill-McQueeney into the organization as President and Chief Operating Officer. Meggan recruit Patrick McKevitt to the full-time position of Director of Operations. BraveHearts has grown from a program initially serving 8 children with special needs to over 200 individuals each week. Today, more than 50% of BraveHearts efforts are directed toward serving physically and emotionally injured military veterans.